The charity Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF ) is warning Galway people that cases of meningitis and septicaemia are expected to rise over Christmas.
On average there are over three times as many cases of the most common cause of bacterial meningitis (meningococcal ) in January compared to September.
While babies and young children are most at risk of meningitis and septicaemia, teenagers and young adults are the next most at-risk group. Meningitis and septicaemia can affect anyone of any age, at any time.
Christmas is the peak season for meningitis. This is thought to be due to bacteria being able to invade the body more easily via the nose and throat at this time of year due to co-infection with the flu virus. Also, the bacteria can spread more rapidly when people spend longer periods indoors in close proximity.
Meningitis and septicaemia are potentially fatal diseases that strike without warning. One in 10 people affected will die and a third of survivors will be left with after-effects, some as serious as brain damage, amputations, blindness or hearing loss.
Rapid identification and treatment of meningitis and septicaemia provides the best chance of survival. However, it can often be missed because in the early stages the symptoms resemble many other less serious illnesses, such as flu.
Early symptoms are usually fever, vomiting, headache and feeling unwell. Limb pain, pale skin, and cold hands and feet often appear earlier than the rash, neck stiffness, dislike of bright lights and confusion. Someone unwell with meningitis or septicaemia will become rapidly worse.
Vinny Smith, the chief executive of MRF says that sadly an increasing number of families are affected by meningitis and septicaemia during winter.