Meningitis awareness campaign launched in Limerick

Limerick senior hurlers Colin Coughlan and Cathal O’Neill with Dr Kenneth Beatty, of Public Health Mid-West, at the launch of the Meningitis Awareness campaign.

A CAMPAIGN has been launched in Limerick to make people aware of the symptoms of meningitis and what to do if they contract it.

It follows the death of a young woman in her 30s in Limerick last September after she contracted the disease.

The Department of Public Health Mid-West, ACT for Meningitis, UL Student Life, and Limerick GAA have joined forces to highlight the importance of young people knowing the signs and symptoms of the potentially deadly disease.  

Meningitis is a serious and life-threatening illness, caused by infection and inflammation of the protective layers of the brain and spinal cord. While there are many causes of meningitis, the two most commonly seen are viral and bacterial meningitis.

Viral meningitis is more common but rarely fatal. Bacterial meningitis is less common, but may be accompanied by septicaemia (blood poisoning), which can result in death. It is most common from September to April but can occur any time.

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Ireland has among the highest rates of meningitis in Europe.

While babies and young children are most at-risk, a peak has been seen in teenagers and young adults.

It can be caused by a variety of different germs, mainly bacteria and viruses. The spread of the bacteria is caused by droplets from the nose and mouth.

While the risk to the general public is low, bacterial meningitis or septicaemia requires urgent antibiotic treatment.  

Dr Kenneth Beatty, Specialist in Public Health Medicine at Public Health Mid-West, said that the key message of the campaign is that if people know the signs of meningitis, they shouldn’t waste time in getting treatment/

“Time is of the essence when you start to notice one or some of the symptoms. Knowing the signs could save your life, or your friend’s life, and prevent a devastating loss and impact in a community,”Dr Beatty explained.

ACT for Meningitis chief executive Siobhan Carroll said that, as the national support and awareness charity for meningitis, they were urging people to be meningitis aware.

“While many people associate the disease with babies and children, teenagers and young people are the second most at-risk group. As the early symptoms of meningitis can disguise themselves as other things, such as flu or maybe a hangover, it’s easy to mistake meningitis for something else.

“Someone with meningitis or septicaemia can get a lot worse very quickly so keep checking them. So, please, trust your instincts. Seek medical help if you suspect meningitis, mind your friends,” Ms Carroll said.