Diane McConnell, Regional Director at Meningitis Research Foundation said, “During the last few weeks of 2018 and first weeks of 2019, there was a higher than normal incidence of meningococcal meningitis reported in Ireland. Therefore, the introduction of the MenACWY vaccine into the schedule is particularly welcomed because it means that the Irish population will be protected against more types of meningitis and septicaemia.”
Rapid diagnosis and treatment of meningitis and septicaemia provide the best chance of survival. However, early symptoms are usually fever, vomiting, headache and feeling unwell, which can be mistaken for something less serious. Limb pain, pale skin, and cold hands and feet often appear earlier than the rash, neck stiffness, dislike of bright lights and confusion, but these symptoms are less well known.
MenW can be very difficult to recognise because patients can often present with gastrointestinal symptoms, such as vomiting, without the characteristic signs of meningitis and septicaemia, such as a non-blanching rash. That’s why prevention through vaccination is the best option to tackle this disease.
Meningitis strikes quickly and can kill within 24 hours. About a third of survivors can be left with life-changing after effects, some as serious as brain damage, limb loss, blindness or hearing loss.
MenB, MenC and other types of meningitis continue to be a threat in Ireland. Crucially, however, both MenB and MenC are covered in the current immunisation schedule in Ireland, with MenC being offered since the year 2000, and MenB being offered to babies since December 2016. However, there are not yet vaccines available against all types of meningitis and septicaemia, which is why it’s important for people to remain aware of the symptoms.
With a recent spike in MenW cases, Meningitis Research Foundation particularly welcomes the introduction of the ACWY vaccine.