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Flu vaccine

Call for vigilance after increase in meningitis deaths

A LOCAL GP has said he is “absolutely concerned” after the tragic deaths of three people from meningitis and septicaemia across Ireland in recent weeks.
People on both sides of the border have been warned to be on high alert to the symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia, after the recent increase in meningococcal disease – the leading cause of meningitis in Ireland.
Local GP, Dr Brendan O’Hare, urged anyone who is concerned that they may have the symptoms of meningitis to seek urgent medical advice.
“We have a very good vaccination programme in place that has lowered the risk. I wouldn’t have seen a case of meningitis for seven or eight years, but the last girl was brought in comatose and was very fortunate to survive without brain damage,” he said.
Describing the deaths as a reminder of the dangers of meningitis, the doctor said it was very hard to diagnose, as the initial symptoms were similar to a flu or a bad cold. But he warned that it was “rapidly progressive” and early medical intervention could be life-saving.
Dr Jillian Johnston, Consultant in Health Protection at the Public Health Agency explained that ‘Meningitis can occur at any time of the year’, but warned it is most prevalent in the winter months, so it is vital everyone becomes more vigilant of the signs and symptoms. 
“Meningitis is most commonly caused by the meningococcus bacterium, which causes inflammation of the brain lining and/ or septicaemia (blood poisoning). 
The early symptoms of the disease may include sudden onset of high fever, a severe and worsening headache without any other obvious cause, severe neck stiffness, dislike of bright lights, very cold hands and feet and drowsiness that can deteriorate so someone is difficult to wake or even unconscious. Another symptom of the disease is a rash that does not fade when pressed with a glass. 
Dr Johnston warned that the rash is a ‘very serious sign.’
 “If someone develops this then they need urgent medical attention. It can appear anywhere on the body so it is important to check under clothing. However, the rash doesn’t always appear, so don’t wait for it to appear before seeking medical attention if other signs are present.”
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