Meningitis cases on the rise in Cork and Kerry
The Health Service Executive has expressed concern after statistics showed a 50% increase in meningitis case in Cork and Kerry last year.
Figures released showed that in Cork and Kerry last year, there were 18 confirmed cases of meningitis, compared with just 12 the previous year.
Of those 18 cases, two people tragically died as a result, one with confirmed Group C strain.
Worryingly, six of those cases have occurred in the first two months of 2017, leading to fears that more people, particularly children and elderly, could be at risk of contracting the disease.
Of the three cases contracted this year, three were Group B strains and three were Group C.
Commenting on the findings, the HSE 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 HSE have stressed that all precautions are being taken to stop the spread of the disease and stated that there are a number vaccinations to prevent the disease.
"The current MenC vaccine schedule is -MenC vaccine at 6 months and booster at 13 months, MenC adolescent booster in 1st year secondary schools, delivered by HSE 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 HSE have said that the recent cases cases are not directly linked to non vaccination in children, however they were quick to point out the decreasing number of vaccinations in children as a cause for concern.
"Uptake statistics show a drop off in uptake of the MenC booster at 13 months compared to the two, four and six month vaccines," the report said.
"The most recent figures show that only 88% of 2 year olds have had their 13 month booster dose at of MenC.
The Cork/Kerry Community Healthcare Organisation said in a statement that while the latest figures are a source of concern, meningitis cases have continued to decrease through the years.
"While any increase at all is a cause for concern, we would like to stress that numbers are lower than they were historically."
Since 1992, meningitis cases have decreased at a phenomenal rate, going from 11 cases per 100,000 to 0.75 cases per 100,000.
Despite this, cases have been gradually increasing since 2011.
Priscilla Lynch, Head of Health and Wellbeing, wants to remind parents of the importance of childhood vaccinations in the first year.
"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 6 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 twelve months," she said.