Act quickly in meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia (MenB) cases

Helen O’Callaghan says group B meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia (MenB) can have lasting effects.
Act quickly in meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia (MenB) cases

MENINGITIS was not on Aisling Fagan’s radar when her daughter started crying in a way the Dublin mum felt “wasn’t right at all”.

Kayleigh-Ann, then nine months old, had been fine all day but started projectile vomiting at bedtime and had a high temperature and very irritable cry.

“My sister said I should bring her to hospital to be checked out. By the time the ambulance arrived her temperature had decreased — I’d given her Calpol.

They asked if I still wanted to bring her in as it seemed like a vomiting bug.

My gut instinct told me something was wrong so we went to hospital.”

There, a nurse said Kayleigh-Ann could go home if they got her temperature down.

“In less than half an hour the rash appeared. The nurse just looked at it, whisked her out of my arms, and ran with her to the resuscitation room, where they took bloods.”

She was diagnosed with group B meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia (MenB), for which there is no vaccine in the childhood immunisation schedule in Ireland — so it is vital parents know the symptoms of meningitis and seek medical advice without delay.

“The doctor said if I hadn’t brought her in when I did, her temperature would have peaked high, she’d have gone into a deep sleep and there’d have been no coming back from that,” says Aisling, who also has a three-year-old, Amelia.

Kayleigh-Ann is five and doing well. But the meningitis left its mark.

“The doctors told us there would be some minor side-effects down the line. We’re only starting to see them now. We noticed she wasn’t picking up words. She’s slowly getting better but she’s still behind.”

In senior infants, Kayleigh-Ann also has poor concentration.

“We’re getting her to do activities at home to help her focus,” says Aisling, who will always be grateful she was vigilant and acted fast.

The Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) estimates there are around 200 cases of meningitis and septicaemia every year in Ireland.

It says these deadly diseases can strike without warning, kill one in 10, and leave a third of survivors with life-altering after-effects, ranging from deafness to loss of limbs.

Babies, toddlers, and young adults are most at risk but the disease can strike at any age.

From December, babies born on or after October 1, 2016 will be offered a vaccine to protect against MenB.

However, no catch-up campaign is planned for older children.

Top tips

Meningitis: Lining around brain/spinal cord inflamed.

Septicaemia: Blood poisoning caused by the same germs.

First symptoms: Usually fever, vomiting, headache. Limb pain, pale skin, cold hands and feet often appear earlier than rash, neck stiffness, dislike of bright lights. Confusion.

Other signs in babies: Tense/ bulging soft spot on head; refusal to feed; irritable when picked up (high-pitched/ moaning cry); stiff body with jerky movements or floppy.

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