The HSE have advised the public to be vigilant regarding meningococcal meningitis/septicaemia as there has been a noted increase in meningococcal disease in the country in the last two weeks.
Meningitis is a serious illness involving inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. There are two types of meningitis; bacterial and viral. Parents are advised to check their children have been vaccinated against meningococcal disease as it poses a serious risk to children and adolescents.
A vaccine that protects against meningococcal C disease (MenC vaccine) is given at 6 months and at 13 months and meningococcal B vaccine (MenB vaccine) is given at 2, 4, and 12 months of age. In addition adolescents are routinely offered the MenC vaccine in the first year of secondary school. Older teenagers and young adults up to the age of 23 years who never received a MenC vaccine are recommended to get the vaccine. Other vaccines that protect against other forms of meningitis and septicaemia are included in the routine child vaccination programme (Hib vaccine and pneumococcal vaccine (PCV).
All children should get their vaccines in accordance with the national schedule. Children who have missed vaccines can obtain these vaccines from their GPs.
The illness occurs most frequently in young children and adolescents, usually as isolated cases. Bacterial meningitis or septicaemia requires urgent antibiotic treatment.
Signs and symptoms may include:
– Fever (sometimes with cold hands and feet)
– Joint or muscle pain
– Rapid breathing
– Severe Headaches
– Discomfort from bright light
– Neck stiffness
– Vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhoea
– Non-blanching rash may appear which may be tiny red pin pricks that may develop to purple bruises. This rash does not fade under pressure.
The HSE advises that if anyone has any concerns or showing symptoms, they should contact their GP in the first instance but ensure that medical expertise is sought.
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