HSE urges vigilance as third person dies from meningitis

Death of young adult in Galway not connected to two recent deaths in Dublin and Limerick

The HSE has urged people to be vigilant for the symptoms of meningitis following the death of a third person from the disease.

A young adult has died from meningitis in Galway, it confirmed on Friday. The case is not connected to two meningitis deaths in recent weeks in Dublin and Limerick.

HSE Community Healthcare West said its department of public health, which covers the west and northwest, is investigating a single case of confirmed meningococcal disease in Galway, having been notified of it in late September.

A spokeswoman said the young person has subsequently sadly died.

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Close contacts identified by public health staff have been contacted and offered treatment in accordance with national guidance, she said.

“Person-to-person spread of meningococcal disease is very unusual, especially with others who are not a household or physically close personal contact,” she said.

Meanwhile, the funeral has taken place of Ethan Banks (18), who died last weekend of a “rare and aggressive” form of the disease.

Members of Mr Banks’s sailing club formed a guard of honour at the funeral in Howth on Friday.

The HSE is investigating four cases of the disease reported in the last week of September. Three cases were confirmed and one remains a possible case.

Two of the people, including a young woman in Limerick, died of bacterial meningitis, which causes inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.

Three of the cases are young adults and one case is under the age of 10. .

Bacterial meningitis is less common but usually more serious than viral meningitis and requires urgent treatment with antibiotics. Infection may be accompanied by septicaemia, or blood poisoning. The bacteria lives naturally in the nose and throat of healthy people without causing illness and the spread is caused by droplets from the nose and mouth.

The HSE said the illness occurs most frequently in young children and adolescents, usually as isolated cases.

Early symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia include fever, headache, neck stiffness, vomiting, drowsiness, discomfort from bright light, diarrhoea, muscle pain, stomach cramps and fever with cold hands and feet.

A rash of pinprick-type marks may appear and can spread to form bruises or blood blisters if left untreated. The HSE has warned people not to wait for a rash and advised anyone who is ill with these symptoms or who is deteriorating to seek medical help immediately.

A vaccine to prevent infection by meningococcal B disease was introduced in Ireland for all children born on or after October 1st, 2016, because children under one year are at highest risk. All children are offered the vaccine at two and four months of age with a booster administered at 12 months.

The vaccine is not available for free to children born before this date.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times