Dept of Public Health, HSE West and North West investigating meningococcal disease  

The Department of Public Health West and North West is responding to two cases of confirmed infection and one probable case of infection of meningococcal disease in the West.

Public Health were notified of the cases in early February, and concerns three teenagers. Close contacts have identified by Public Health and offered preventive treatment as appropriate.

However, because the three people attended the same school, Public Health West and North West is following national guidance and as a precaution will offer one dose of an antibiotic to all students and staff. It is important to stress the risk to others in the school is very low and this action is a precaution.

Person-to-person spread of meningococcal disease is uncommon, especially with people who are not a household or physically close personal contact. 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.

What is Meningitis?

Meningitis is a serious illness caused by infection and inflammation of the protective layers of the brain and spinal cord. While there are many causes of meningitis, the two most common are viral and bacterial meningitis. Bacterial meningitis is less common but can be more serious than viral meningitis and requires urgent treatment with antibiotics. Bacterial meningitis may be accompanied by septicaemia (poisoning of the blood). Bacterial meningitis or septicaemia requires urgent antibiotic treatment.

Meningitis is preventable through vaccination. All children are offered the MenB vaccine at 2 and 4 months of age with a booster dose of MenB vaccine given at 12 months. Children under 1 year of age are most at risk of getting MenB and should be vaccinated. Any child who has missed a dose of MenB vaccine can still get it from their GP up to the age of 2 years. The MenB Immunisation programme commenced in 2016 for babies born at that time. There was no catch-up campaign of older children.

While the risk to the wider community is considered low, Public Health West and North West want the general public in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon to be aware and vigilant of the signs and symptoms of this disease. Public Health advises that if anyone has any concerns they should contact their GP in the first instance but ensure that medical expertise is sought quickly.

Dr Anthony Breslin, Consultant in Public Health Medicine, said “Time is of the essence when you start to notice one or some of the symptoms. Knowing the signs could save your life, or a loved one’s life. Early symptoms can include headache, fever, vomiting, and muscle pain. Further specific symptoms can include fever with cold hands and feet, stiff neck, dislike to bright lights, drowsiness and confusion. The symptoms may appear in any order or some may not appear at all. Please seek immediate medical help if you suspect meningitis.”

Signs and symptoms may include:

· Severe headaches

· Fever

· Vomiting

· Drowsiness

· Discomfort from bright light

· Neck stiffness

· Rash (Do NOT wait for a rash)

 

Symptoms in babies can vary and include:

· refuse feeds

· be irritable

· 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

Department of Public Health HSE West and North West advise that if anyone has concerns, that they contact their GP immediately and ensure that medical expertise is sought.