Written Answers. - Meningitis Incidence.

Thursday, 20 November 1997

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 483 No. 2

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  65.  Mr. Gormley  Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley   asked the Minister for Health and Children  Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen   the growth, if any, in the incidence of meningitis among young people in this country; and the policy measures, if any, which are being undertaken by his Department to counteract the effects of this disease. [19818/97]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen): Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  There are two forms of meningitis — bacterial [446] and viral. Bacterial meningitis is usually the more serious form of the disease. The number of cases of meningitis notified to my Department in recent years has been as follows:

Bacterial Meningitis Acute Viral Meningitis
1994 241 90
1995 382 74
1996 410 77
1997 369 27
(to 30 September)

Information as to the ages of those affected is not available. The majority of cases of the disease are known to occur in babies, children and persons under the age of 25.

As part of my Department's response to the rise in the number of cases of meningitis, the working group on bacterial meningitis was established in 1996 under the chairmanship of a deputy chief medical officer of the Department of Health. Its remit was “to examine the incidence of bacterial meningitis and related conditions, and to make such recommendations as may be required to strengthen the surveillance and control of these conditions.”

The working group produced its report in January 1997 and made a number of recommendations relating to improved procedures for the diagnosis, surveillance and treatment of meningitis. These are being implemented by the health boards and other agencies concerned. The working group has continued in existence to monitor the situation and to provide advice on the surveillance and control of meningitis as required.

My Department has taken a number of steps to raise awareness of meningitis. The health promotion unit has produced a revised leaflet for the information of the public generally and a leaflet for general practitioners. An updated press facts document is being issued to the national media. My Department has also provided financial assistance to the Meningitis Research Foundation to enable an information and education officer to be employed for the next three years. The foundation carries out valuable work in ensuring a high level of public awareness about meningitis and there is co-operation between the health boards and the foundation in relation to public talks and local awareness campaigns.

The chief medical officer of my Department has recently written on my behalf to the director of public health in each health board, requesting that they take all necessary measures to ensure the highest possible awareness in relation to bacterial meningitis, principally meningococcal meningitis, among professionals, parents and the public generally. The directors have been asked to circulate the updated press facts document to the provincial media.

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