Fears over rise in meningitis cases in Cork and Kerry

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has expressed concern after figures showed a rise in meningococcal disease in Cork and Kerry.

Figures released in a bulletin noted that in Cork and Kerry last year there were 18 confirmed cases compared to 12 in 2015.

It said that there were two deaths, both in elderly patients, one with confirmed Group C strain. The group was unavailable in the second case.

The Department of Public Health HSE South bulletin also highlights six confirmed cases in the first two months of this year, compared to three in the same period in 2016.

Of the six cases, there were three Group B strains and three Group C cases.

It said: “Tragically, there have been two deaths. This compares to three cases in the same time period in 2016.

“The increase in cases of meningococcal disease in Cork and Kerry is a concern, particularly the increase in cases of MenC. 

"The current MenC vaccine schedule is — MenC vaccine at 6 months and booster at 13 months, MenC adolescent booster in 1st year second level schools, delivered by HSE school immunisation teams. 

"This booster has been offered to 1st year students since the 2014/2015 school year, so this is the third year of the programme.”

The recent cases in adults are not directly linked to past non-vaccination in childhood, but the bulletin does point out a more recent issue.

“Uptake statistics show a drop off in uptake of the MenC booster at 13 months compared to the two-, four-, and six-months vaccines,” it said. 

“The most recent figures show that only 88% of 2-years-olds have had their 13-month booster dose of MenC.”

In a statement, the Cork/Kerry Community Healthcare Organisation said: “While any increase at all is a cause for concern, we would like stress that numbers are lower than they were historically.”

Since accurate records became available in 1992 the highest incidence of meningococcal disease occurred in 1999, at 11 cases per 100,000, and the lowest in 2012, at 0.75 cases per 100,000. 

However, the bulletin notes that the incidence has been increasing slowly since 2012.

Head of Health and Wellbeing Priscilla Lynch said: “We would like to take this opportunity to remind parents of the importance of the free childhood vaccination schedule and especially the MenC vaccine at six months, 13 months, and first year in secondary school and MenB, which is given to babies born after October 1, 2016, at two months, four months, and 12 months.”



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