The HSE has warned the public to be vigilant after three people have been killed by meningitis around the country.
It’s warning of a “noted increase” in the number of cases in the past few weeks with 11 cases of menigococcal disease reported to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.
Three of those patients have died and in each case the cause of death was the meningococcal meningitis/septicaemia infection.
Provisional data suggests that multiple strains of the disease are circulating, with two different strains found in the three people who died.
This latest rash of cases has affected people of all age groups and none of the patients are so far found to have any contact or links with one another.
The eleven cases reported in the last week of 2018 and the first week of this year is an increase on just five cases in the same period last year.
In 2018 the HSE was notified of a total of 89 meningococcal cases of compared to 76 in 2017.
Dr Suzanne Cotter, Specialist in Public Health Medicine at HPSC said “Although meningococcal disease incidence generally increases in the winter months, the recent increase is cause for concern.”
She said that if someone is concerned they are displaying the symptoms of meningitis, they should contact their GP immediately.
What is meningitis
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 is less common but is usually more serious than viral meningitis and requires urgent treatment with antibiotics and may be accompanied by septicaemia.
It is most common in young children and adolescents, but can affect people of all ages.
Symptoms can include fever, joint and muscle pain, headaches, stiffness, cramping, nausea, discomfort with bright lights.
But Dr Cotter warned that people shouldn’t be complacent because they’re not showing all of the symptoms.
“Meningitis and septicaemia often happen together and symptoms can appear in any order. Some may not appear at all.”
“Do not wait for the rash to appear. If someone is ill and getting worse, get medical help immediately,” she said.
The bacteria can live naturally in the nose and throat of normal healthy persons without causing illness and is spread by droplets from the nose and mouth.
Parents are urged to make sure their children have received their vaccine, if they are unsure it can be gotten at your local GP.