Press Release

Minister O’Malley urges vigilance at the launch of Meningitis Awareness Campaign

Mr Tim O’Malley T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, today (31January 2005) launched the Meningitis Awareness Campaign which is being organised by the Meningitis Research Foundation in association with Boots Chemists. The campaign will run for the month of February.

“According to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, provisional figures indicate that 262 cases of bacterial meningitis were notified in 2004 which is a welcome reduction on last year”. (311 cases were notified in 2003) Of the bacterial meningitis notifications in 2004 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 while we have some way to go to achieving the Meningitis Research Foundation’s vision of a “world free of meningitis and septicaemia” the declining numbers of the past few years are welcome steps in the right direction. The Minister advised that we must remain ever vigilant 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 watchful 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 kill in hours. People who recover may be left with permanent disabilities or a range of after-effects that dramatically alter their lives. Disabilities include amongst others, brain damage, hearing loss and amputations. Meningitis and septicaemia can, however, be successfully treated if identified in time

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