Twelve deaths in State due to bacterial meningitis last year

Funeral of Kayla Carey (6) to take place on Tuesday, while relative remains in hospital

Kayla Carey (6) from Navan, Co Meath, died from suspected meningococcal meningitis last week. Image:

There were 12 deaths as a result of bacterial meningitis in the Republic last year, according to the Meningitis Research Foundation.

The foundation said there were on average between 150 and 200 cases of bacterial meningitis annually. One in 10 cases are fatal while a third of survivors will suffer side effects which include amputations, sight loss, brain damage or speech problems, it said.

Viral meningitis, which is rarely fatal, is the most common type seen with 260 cases recorded in 2017.

The funeral of Kayla Carey (6) who died from suspected meningococcal meningitis is to take place on Tuesday.


A second child, understood to be a relative of Kayla who had been living in the same property, remains in hospital after also being diagnosed with the disease.

Both cases were reported to the HSE’s department of public health on Friday and HSE staff are liaising with a primary school and the families affected.

Monika Marchlewicz, Ireland manager with the Meningitis Research Foundation said there had been a “slight decrease” in cases of bacterial meningitis over the last year.

“It is not a significant decrease, just very slight and could be down to the introduction of the meningitis B vaccine into the primary vaccination schedule back in October 2016,” she said.

Ms Marchlewicz said a number of parents from the Meath area had been in touch in recent days with concerns.

“There have been parents in touch who are living in close proximity and have been very panicked. What I tell parents is that meningitis is not that easy to spread from one person to another.

“Parents should be reassured that most cases of meningitis and septicaemia are isolated. The bacteria that can cause the disease cannot live longer than a few moments outside the human body, so they are not carried on things like clothes or toys.

“People usually need to be in close or prolonged contact for the bacteria to pass between them. Even when this happens, most people do not become ill because they have natural immunity.”

Remain vigilant

Ms Marchlewicz said her advice for parents was to remain vigilant and if they notice any symptoms or “something unusual” about their child’s behaviour, go to their GP.

“We say don’t wait for a rash to appear, the rash could appear late or may not appear at all,” she added.

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 may be accompanied by septicaemia (blood poisoning).

The bacteria live naturally in the nose and throat of normal healthy people 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.

Kayla is survived by her parents Geraldine and Martin, sister Faith, brother Brooklyn and extended family. Her funeral Mass takes place at 10.30am on Tuesday at St Mary’s Church in Navan.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times