Girl dies of meningitis in Co Meath, second girl critical

GPs are asking parents to be vigilant for signs and symptoms of disease

Intensive care unit at a children’s hopsital. File photgraph:  Bryan O’Brien

Intensive care unit at a children’s hopsital. File photgraph: Bryan O’Brien

 

A child has died from suspected meningococcal meningitis in Co Meath and a second child has the condition.

Both children are under 12 years and from Navan, the HSE has confirmed.

A spokeswoman said the cases were reported to the Department of Public Health, HSE North East on Friday.

HSE public health staff are liaising with a primary school and with the extended family. Antibiotics have been issued where appropriate.

Spread of meningococcal meningitis from person to person is very unusual, especially outside of close household contact, the HSE has said. It’s 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.

“Acknowledging the concerns that parents and guardians are currently experiencing in the local community, Dr Paul Kavanagh, Director of Public Health Medicine HSE North East said his thoughts in the first instance were with the families of the 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.”

Vigilance

While advising vigilance in relation to looking out for signs and symptoms of the disease, Dr Kavanagh stressed 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.

Symptoms

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.

Dr John O’Brien, GP and Vice-President of the Irish College of General Practitioners said:

“Any death from meningitis is a tragedy for the family and community involved. Our advice to parents and families in the area is to look out for symptoms such as high fever, lethargy or a rash in their child. If your child has even minor symptoms, or if they are a cause of concern, go to your GP for advice.”

“However, if your child has no symptoms, please don’t come to your GP for a check-up. The chances of other children who came in contact with a child with meningitis being infected is very low,” he added.