Press Release

Minister Callely advises against complacency at the launch of Meningitis Awareness Campaign

Mr Ivor Callely T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, with special responsibility for Services for Older People, today (27 January 2004) launched the Meningitis Awareness Campaign which is being jointly organised by the Meningitis Research Foundation and Boots Chemists. The campaign will run for the month of February.

“According to the National Disease Surveillance Centre, 275 (provisional figure) cases of bacterial meningitis were notified in 2003 which is a welcome reduction on previous years. (396 cases were notified in 2001 and 297 cases were notified in 2002.) Of the bacterial meningitis notifications in 2003 . . . only 5 were group C cases while in 2000 group C disease was responsible for 139 cases. This sizeable reduction in the number of cases – a 96% reduction – is due to the success of the meningococcal group C (Meningitis C) immunisation campaign” stated the Minister.

The Minister continued by saying that this highlights the positive impact that the Meningitis C vaccine has had in reducing not only the morbidity but also mortality due to group C disease in Ireland, in all age groups but especially in young children.

The Minister advised that we cannot afford to become complacent about meningitis and septicaemia. Group B disease now accounts for the vast majority of the meningococcal disease notifications in Ireland and as there is no effective group B vaccine suitable for routine immunisation we must be constantly vigilant for the signs and symptoms of this disease. Meningitis (both viral and bacterial) can develop very quickly and unexpectedly and septicaemia is even more aggressive.

Meningitis and septicaemia can cause long term disabilities in the form of developmental delay, hearing loss and neurological damage. However, both meningitis and septicaemia are highly treatable if detected early enough and it is crucial, therefore, that students, parents of young children and healthcare professionals be vigilant where this disease is concerned and that they seek medical advice without delay where the symptoms of these diseases are present.

The Minister also stated that: “The information provided by the Meningitis Research Foundation will assist in raising the awareness level of parents and students to the relevant signs and symptoms.”