The HSE West is reminding the public to remain alert for the signs and symptoms of meningitis following three recent deaths, one of which occurred in Co Galway, from the illness.
A young Galway man was the latest fatality from meningococcal disease. However, there was no known link between his death and the two other recent meningitis deaths in Dublin and Limerick, according to the HSE.
The health authority’s community healthcare department said this week while the risk to the wider community is considered low, it is important that people are aware of the symptoms of the condition.
Meningitis is a serious illness involving inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. It can be caused by a variety of different germs, mainly bacterial, and viruses. Bacterial meningitis, such as in these cases, is less common but usually more serious than viral meningitis and requires urgent treatment with antibiotics.
Bacterial meningitis may be accompanied by septicaemia (blood poisoning ). The bacteria live naturally in the nose and throat of normal healthy people without causing illness. The spread of the bacteria is caused by droplets from the nose and mouth. The illness occurs most frequently in young children and adolescents, usually as isolated cases.
Signs and symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia
Meningitis and septicaemia often happen together. Symptoms can appear in any order. Some may not appear at all.
Early symptoms may include;
Discomfort from bright light
Fever with cold hands and feet
A rash may appear (pin-prick type marks, which if untreated, can spread to form bruises or blood blisters ). If someone is ill and getting worse, get medical help immediately. Do not wait for a rash to appear.
Babies may also:
have a high-pitched cry
have a stiff body or be floppy or unresponsive
have a bulging soft spot on the top of their head
The HSE advises that if anyone has any concerns, they should contact their GP. Always ensure that medical help is sought quickly.
Meningococcal B disease is prevented by vaccination. The MenB vaccine was introduced in Ireland for all children born on or after October 1 2016 - children under one year are at the highest risk of meningococcal B disease.
All children are offered MenB vaccine at age two and four months with a booster dose of MenB vaccine given at 12 months.