Press Release

Minister Micheál Martin TD launches the Lions Clubs of Ireland Meningitis Awareness Campaign

Micheál Martin TD Minister for Health and Children launched Lions Club of Ireland and the Meningitis Research Foundation´s Meningitis Awareness Campaign. Speaking at the launch the Minister said, “I would like to commend both associations present today for your foresight and community awareness in bringing forward this initiative – your work will help to keep fresh in people’s minds the signs to look out for and, I am sure, will assist in the prevention of meningitis and septicaemia-related illness and death in our community”.

“Meningococcal disease is the most common form of bacterial meningitis in Ireland – accounting for up to 90% of the cases. Group B and group C disease are the two types of meningococcal disease most prevalent in this country. According to the National Disease Surveillance Centre, 296 cases of bacterial meningitis were notified in Ireland between 1 October 2001 and 30 September 2002. Bacterial meningitis notifications declined by 31% when compared to the same period the previous year (October 2000 – September 2001) when 431 cases were notified” the Minister noted.

“The most dramatic reduction has been seen in Group C disease which declined by 89% in the period January – November 2002 when compared to the same period in 2000 (before the Meningitis C vaccine was introduced). I am extremely pleased to note the significant reduction in the number of cases which can be largely attributed to the success of the Meningococcal group C (Meningitis C) immunisation campaign which I launched in October 2000. This campaign was implemented in three phases, the final phase of which was completed earlier this year. The Meningitis C vaccine is now incorporated into the Primary Childhood Immunisation Programme and it is administered to children at 2, 4 and 6 months of age” Minister Martin said.

“This reduction has been observed in all age groups in the period January to November 2002 when compared to the same period in 2000. The most significant reductions have been seen in the age groups targeted by the Meningitis C vaccine, ranging from a 100% reduction in 5-9 year age group to an 86% reduction in the 1-4 years and 19-24 years age groups. These are achievements of which all involved can feel justifiably proud”, he said.

“There have been no group C deaths in 2002 to date whereas over the same period in 1999, 2000 and 2001 there were five, nine and three deaths respectively, thereby highlighting 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” Minister Martin said.

“We cannot afford to become complacent about meningitis and septicaemia. Group B is the most common form of the disease 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. Both conditions are highly treatable if detected early enough and it is crucial, therefore, that parents and young adults are vigilant where this disease is concerned and that they seek medical advice without delay where the symptoms of these diseases are present”, he added.

“These conditions can cause long term disabilities in the form of developmental delay, hearing loss and neurological damage. Therefore, it is particularly apt that an awareness campaign such as this one is taking place in order to remind people of all ages, but particularly students and parents of young children, to be watchful for the disease. I would like to take this opportunity to urge all parents to have their children immunised against the diseases covered by the Childhood Immunisation Programme, which includes Meningitis C, in order to ensure that both their children and the population generally have maximum protection against the diseases concerned” he said.