THREE people have died following an outbreak of meningococcal disease in Ireland, according to the Health Service Executive (HSE).
Meningococcal disease can cause meningitis or septicaemia, which requires urgent antibiotic treatment.
Eleven cases have been reported since the last week of December, compared to five cases for the same period last year.
The HSE has called the increase ‘a cause for concern’ and provided advice to the public on spotting the early symptoms.
“Although meningococcal disease incidence generally increases in the winter months, the recent increase is cause for concern and the HSE wishes to alert the public to the signs and symptoms of this disease so that immediate medical attention can be sought if someone has symptoms that could be caused by this bug,” said Dr Suzanne Cotter of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.
“If anyone has any concerns about meningitis they should ring their GP in the first instance. Meningitis and septicaemia often happen together and symptoms can appear in any order. Some may not appear at all.
“Early symptoms can include; fever, headache, vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle pain, stomach cramps, fever with cold hands and feet and a rash, but do not wait for the rash to appear.
“If someone is ill and getting worse, get medical help immediately.
“Parents of children should also check that they are up-to-date regarding their childhood meningococcal vaccinations.”
The HSE has advised that anyone showing symptoms should contact their GP in the first instance but ensure that medical expertise is sought.
Provisional data on the strain types identified since the outbreak indicates that different strains of the organism are circulating.
Of the three patients who died, two different strain types were identified.
None of the 11 patients with meningococcal disease have been identified as having had contact or links with each other
The HSE has also urged parents to ensure children’s vaccinations are up to date, following a drop in the uptake of meningococcal vaccines among children in recent years.