Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) is reminding people in Ireland to be alert to the symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia, after the Health Service Executive (HSE) has reported an increase in meningococcal disease (the leading cause of meningitis in Ireland) in recent weeks.
The HSE states that there have been 11 cases reported since week 52 of 2018. Sadly three of the people diagnosed with meningococcal disease have died.
All age groups are at risk and those who have not been vaccinated yet are being advised to do so by the HSE.
This compares to five cases for the same time period last year. In 2018, a total of 89 meningococcal cases were reported compared to 76 in 2017.
The recent cases are said to have occurred in Dublin and other regions of the country, and affected all age groups, ranging from infants to elderly. The disease and deaths have not been caused by a single strain of meningococcal bacteria, but have been caused by multiple strains.
Diane McConnell, Regional Director at MRF said: “We are saddened to learn that a number of people have been affected by meningitis and septicemia in recent weeks. Our thoughts and condolences go out to these individuals and their family and friends.
“MRF has been supporting people for the past 29 years and anyone with questions or concerns can call the free MRF helpline on 1800 41 33 44 (Ireland) or 080 8800 3344 (UK) or email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit meningitis.org. We’re here to help anyone affected.
“Sadly we see more people affected by meningitis and septicemia during winter, particularly around Christmas. This is thought to be due to the bacteria being able to invade the body more easily via the nose and throat at this time of year due to recent infection with flu virus, and because the bacteria can spread more rapidly when people spend longer periods indoors in close proximity.
“Meningococcal bacteria are transmitted from person to person by close contact with others such as coughing, sneezing, kissing etc, but usually we have to be in very close or regular contact with someone for the bacteria to pass between us. Even when this happens, most of us will not become ill because we have natural immunity. The bacteria cannot live longer than a few moments outside the human body, so they are not carried on things like clothes and bedding, toys or dishes.”
“We encourage everyone to take up the offer of all the vaccines that are included in routine immunisation schedule to protect themselves and their families. No single vaccine protects against all strains of meningococcal disease and vaccines against some forms of the disease are not routinely available so it is vital that people are aware of the symptoms.”
The helpline hours are Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm. Call 1800 41 33 44. If people call outside of these times wanting information or support, please leave your contact details and someone from the helpline team will get back to you.