Written Answers. - Meningitis Outbreaks.

Ray Burke

Question:

78 Mr. R. Burke asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the progressively increasing number of deaths from meningitis, in particular in the Dublin area; if so, if he has had this matter examined; and if he will make a statement on the matter to alleviate the concerns of parents. [9303/97]

Limerick East): The Department of Health is aware through its infectious diseases monitoring programme of the incidence of and mortality from bacterial meningitis septicaemia in the Eastern Health Board in the first quarter of 1997. The Department has been in further communication with the health board on the matter and the following table shows comparable figures for meningococcal disease notifications (deaths) for 1995, 1996 and 1997 for the first quarter of each year.

Jan-March 1997

Jan-March 1996

Jan-March 1995

51 (5 deaths)

45 (5 deaths)

48 (6 deaths)

These figures show that the incidence of meningococcal disease remains high in the Eastern Health Board area but has not shown a marked increase over the figures for the past three years. The first quarter of each year is usually associated with the highest incidence of this disease. I am informed that recent cases are sporadic in nature, i.e. have occurred individually and are not related clinically or epidemiologically to each other. The nature of this condition is that it can strike with great rapidity, the patient can deteriorate very quickly and there is a mortality rate of up to 10 per cent. The recent report of the Working Group on Bacterial Meningitis and Related Conditions pointed to the necessity for early diagnosis and immediate treatment of this condition by doctors with a view to reducing the mortality. The report also makes a number of further recommendations in relation to the surveillance, treatment and control of meningitis and those recommendations are being pursued with the health service personnel most actively involved in this area.
I reiterate the advice offered to parents through the Health Promotion Unit leaflet on meningtis that if they are concerned their children may be suffering from meningitis to bring them immediately to their doctor for assessment and further action if necessary.