A new weapon in the war against meningitis!

meningitis b article image Students, Suzanne & Joe

A new weapon in the war against meningitis!

It’s another blue sky Monday morning in Ballincollig and Mary comes to visit us at the Grove Medical Centre with her newborn son Cian. She’s worried about something she read in the paper and wants our opinion on it. The article was about a handsome rugby player whose son was very sick with meningitis. It mentioned that Irish children are not yet receiving the vaccine against this type of meningitis. Cian is shortly due his two month vaccines.


What can I tell Mary?


Mary: I am worried about my son getting meningitis doctor. What is Meningitis?


Doctor: Well Mary, meningitis is a serious infection that causes swelling of the tissue that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. The infection can also spread to the blood leading to blood poisoning.


Mary: How will I know if little Cian has meningitis?


Doctor: The onset can be very quick and symptoms can include a fever with cold hands and feet, stiff neck, headache, drowsiness, sensitivity to light and a distinctive rash that doesn’t fade when pressed with a glass.


Mary:  What causes this awful disease meningitis?


Doctor: There are various bacterial and viral causes of meningitis, but bacterial meningitis is the most serious. This is the type we vaccinate children against. Most of these bacteria are covered by the current vaccine schedule.


Mary: What about this meningitis B though? I heard that it is not on the normal schedule for Cian.


Doctor: The type of meningitis you’re asking about Mary is caused by a bacteria called meningococcus. There are six different types of  meningococcus, “Men- A, B, C, W, X and Y.” There are chemicals on the surface that help us tell them apart.


Mary: Is Cian likely to get Meningitis type B?


Doctor: Since we have started vaccinating all children against Men C we see very few cases of this disease anymore. The majority of cases of meningitis in Ireland are caused by Meningitis B. Thankfully it is very rare and there are fewer cases every year; in fact there were only 82 cases of bacterial meningitis in the whole of Ireland in 2014. So Mary, Cian is very unlikely to get this disease.


 Mary: Should I get this vaccine for Cian? How can I get my hands on it?


Doctor: We are hoping that this vaccine will be added to the normal schedule for all babies in Ireland. I don’t know when that might happen. However, it has been available privately since December 2013. I understand you are worried that your lovely baby might contract this awful disease and it’s great to know that we can vaccinate him against it. Children who are sick with meningitis can require intensive care just like that rugby player’s son.The new Men B vaccine is made by GSK and is called Bexsero. Cian will need two doses to provide full immunity. We can write you a prescription and our lovely nurse Fiona can administer it here in the surgery.


Mary: And is this vaccine safe doctor? How much do we know about it?


Doctor: Well, the European Committee has licensed it for use in Europe since January 2013. Also, it has been on the UK standard vaccine schedule since July of last year. As for Ireland, it is already free to certain groups of people who are deemed to be at increased risk of contracting meningitis B. So yes, I would say it is very safe.


If any parents have any questions about the meningitis B vaccine or vaccines in general, please feel free to make an appointment with us here at the Grove Medical Centre and we’d be happy to discuss your children’s vaccinations with you.


By UCC Medical Students Cian Duggan and  Aisling Hegarty and Dr Suzanne Kelly


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