After the death of three people from meningitis in the past fortnight, public health services are warning people to be alert and aware of the signs and symptoms of the disease. While everybody is at risk, children under five and adults over 65 are more susceptible and so the HSE have asked parents to make sure that children are up to date with vaccinations to help prevent infection.
But what is the virus and what are the symptoms?
Meningitis is a serious illness involving inflammation of the membranes that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord. There are two types, viral and bacterial meningitis. Viral meningitis is more common but rarely fatal, whereas bacterial meningitis is less common but extremely dangerous as the meningococcal bacteria can also cause septicaemia.
If any symptoms are present, individuals are advised to seek medical attention immediately. This is particularly important as meningitis and septicaemia often occur together, with symptoms occurring in any order, and some not appearing at all. While meningitis is popularly known for its accompanying rash, it can often be one of the last symptoms to appear. Therefore never wait for the rash, seek medical attention if you suffer from any of the early symptoms. These early symptoms include:
- Fever which may or may not include cold hands and feet
- Muscle Pain
- Stomach Cramps
- Stiff neck
- Irritation to bright lights
If a rash does appear, conduct the glass test for meningitis. To do so, press the side of a clear glass firmly against the skin. If clear of meningitis, the rash will fade when the glass is pressed against it, however if it does not fade under pressure, seek medical attention immediately.
For more information on meningitis, symptoms, treatment or prevention methods, see the HSE website here . And remember, if in doubt, pop into our pharmacy or contact your local GP for further medical assistance.