Ireland health officials report investigating two cases of suspected meningococcal meningitis in Navan, Co Meath in two children under twelve years of age. As of Friday, one child is hospitalized while the other has died.

Ireland map/CIA
Ireland map/CIA

Health Service Executive (HSE) Consultants in Public Health Medicine from the HSE Health Protection Team are currently with the parents, guardians and teachers at the primary school where both pupils were in attendance, and are liaising with clinical staff regarding care of the families of the children to ensure appropriate public health measures are in place.

Dr Paul Kavanagh, Director of Public Health Medicine HSE North East stated: “Our thoughts in the first instance are clearly with the families of these two children, and particularly with the family of the child who sadly and tragically died. We are obviously very much aware of the anxiety that is being experienced locally and our focus is to ensure appropriate public health measures are put in place.   Our medical experts are working closely with the school where they attended, advising and supporting parents, guardians and teachers. They are also working with the clinical staff who cared for the cases and their families.”

While advising vigilance in relation to looking out for signs and symptoms of the disease, Dr Kavanagh stressed that the Public Health Protection Team were actively managing the situation locally. “Vaccination means that meningitis has become a rare occurrence.  When it does occur, cases are usually isolated  – spread from person to person is unusual, especially outside household contact.   Vigilance for symptoms is important especially for younger children and adolescents.”

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 usually more serious than viral meningitis and requires urgent treatment with antibiotics. Bacterial meningitis may be accompanied by septicaemia (blood poisoning). The bacteria live naturally in the nose and throat of normal healthy persons without causing illness. 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. Bacterial meningitis or septicaemia requires urgent antibiotic treatment.

Signs and Symptoms may include: Severe Headaches, fever, vomiting, drowsiness, discomfort from bright light and neck stiffness

The HSE advises that if anyone has any concerns they should contact their GP in the first instance but ensure that medical expertise is sought.