Increase in meningococcal disease cases

doctor in hospital Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Meningitis is an infection of the protective membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord

There has been a "noted increase" in cases of meningococcal disease in the Republic of Ireland over recent weeks, the Health Service Executive (HSE) has said.

In the last week of December 2018 and first week of January 2019, 11 cases were identified.

Three patients diagnosed with meningococcal disease have since died, directly due to the infection.

Of the three patients who died, two different strain types were identified.

In 2018 a total of 89 meningococcal cases were identified compared to 76 in 2017.


Meningitis, sometimes known as meningococcal disease, is an infection of the protective membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord.

It can affect anyone, but is most common in babies, young children, teenagers and young adults.

If not treated quickly, it can be very serious.

The infection can cause life-threatening blood poisoning - sepsis - and can result in permanent damage to the brain or nerves.

Symptoms include:

  • being sick
  • a headache
  • a blotchy rash that doesn't fade when a glass is rolled over it
  • a stiff neck
  • a dislike of bright lights
  • drowsiness or unresponsiveness
  • seizures

Dr Suzanne Cotter from the HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre said those concerned should initially visit a GP.

"Meningitis and septicaemia often happen together and symptoms can appear in any order," she said.

"Some may not appear at all."

She added: "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."

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