A national meningitis charity is urging people to be aware of the symptoms of the condition. There is at least one case of the infection each day in Ireland.
ACT for Meningitis - which is based in Galway and was established in 2011 by Siobhán and Noel Carroll who lost their daughter Aoibhe aged four to the disease in 2008 - is keen to heighten awareness about it to mark the fourth annual World Meningitis Day on Tuesday.
It is encouraging individuals, families and communities to learn the signs and symptoms of the condition, the importance of urgent treatment and that some forms can be prevented by vaccination.
To mark the day the charity is inviting people to join hands virtually with people around the world to show their support for meningitis awareness and prevention and to help save lives.
Siobhan Carroll, founder of ACT, says the joining of hands symbolises strength and unity against this devastating disease around the world.
“Please support the day by encouraging your family and friends to learn the signs and symptoms of meningitis so together we can stop it worldwide.
“You can join virtual hands by visiting the Act of Meningitis website and finding out about signs and symptoms.”
For further information on World Meningitis Day log onto the website www.actformeningitis.ie or go to the Facebook page ACT for Meningitis or you telephone (091 ) 782828.
Meningitis is a life-threatening infection which affects the membranes that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis and its associated disease, septicaemia (blood poisoning ), can kill within hours and can affect anyone at any time. Those most at risk are children under five, teenagers, young adults and people over 55 years.
One in 10 people who contract meningitis will die leaving behind devastated family and friends. Survivors can be left with various after-effects including brain damage, blindness, deafness, limb loss (where septicaemia has occurred ), learning difficulties and behavioural issues.
About 300 cases are reported every year in Ireland. However, meningitis experts estimate this only represents half the true picture. There is still no vaccine available to protect against meningococcal group B, the most common bacterial cause of the disease in Ireland.
Common meningitis symptoms are fever (cold hands and feet ), joint or muscle pain, vomiting, headache, stiff neck, dislike of bright lights, drowsiness and confusion.
Additional signs in babies include a dislike of being handled, pale blotchy skin, high-pitched cry, and a blank staring expression. Both adults and children may have a rash (septicaemia ) that does not disappear under pressure. Symptoms may appear in any order and some may not appear at all.