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Meningitis Awareness Week- Catch It Early and Save Your Childs Life

Monday, 21 September 2009

It kills more children in Ireland than other infectious disease but would you know if your child had meningitis?

Dr. Philip MacMahon, Afternoon Show Family Doctor
Born in Dublin and educated by the Jesuits in Gonzaga College Dublin, Dr. Philip went to college in UCD. Post graduate education was received in Scotland, New Zealand and Northern Ireland. Dr. Philip then practiced for two years in Strabane, Co. Tyrone before opening his own practice in Ranelagh Dublin, where he continues to practice today.

Marie Jones and Paddy Punch are here today to tell us about baby Jack who contracted meningitis when he was just 8 months old.


Factfile
. Meningitis and septicemia kill more children in Ireland than any other infectious disease.
. Sadly, one in 10 babies who contract meningitis die
. One in four are left with after-effects sometimes as severe as deafness, brain damage and amputations.
. Meningitis and septicemia are devastating diseases which can leave a baby fighting for their life within a few hours.
. Knowing the symptoms and acting fast will save lives.


How at risk are babies?

Meningitis tends to make babies very ill, very quickly. It's important that if they show any of the following symptoms that you get them checked quickly.

. Tense or bulging soft spot
. High temperature
. Very sleepy / staring expression / too sleepy to wake up
. Vomiting / refusing to feed
. Irritable when picked up
. High pitch or moaning cry
. Breathing fast / difficulty breathing
. Blotchy skin, getting paler or turning blue
. Extreme shivering
. A stiff body with jerky movements or could be floppy and lifeless
. "Pin prick" rash
. Marks or purple bruises on the body
. Cold hands and feet
. Diarrhoea
. Pain / irritability from muscle aches
. Severe limb / joint pain


Some of those symptoms are similar to Swine Flu, how do you know the difference?
Well the difference is the symptoms that have the red flag beside them. They do not appear with Swine Flu.
These symptoms are:

. Limb / joint / muscle pain
. Cold hands and feet / shivering
. Pale or mottled skin


What should you do if you're worried about your baby?
Trust your instincts. If you think your baby has meningitis or septicaemia get medical help immediately from your GP, or go to the nearest hospital A & E. Tell them you are worried it could be meningitis or septicaemia.


Back to basics, what are meningitis and septicemia?
Meningitis means inflammation of the lining around the brain and spinal cord. Septicaemia is blood poisoning. They can be caused by lots of different germs, mainly bacteria or viruses.

Viral meningitis is painful, but it is not usually dangerous. Bacterial meningitis and septicaemia are very dangerous and can come on very quickly. Septicaemia often happens without meningitis, and kills more people.

How can this virus be contracted?
People get the disease when the meningococcal bacteria overcome the body's immune defences and pass into the blood stream, causing meningitis or septicaemia or both.

The bacteria are very common - at any time about one in ten of us has them in our noses and throats without ever knowing they are there, and for most of us this is harmless. We pass the bacteria between each other by close contact (eg kissing), and this helps us build up our immunity. Usually you have to be in very close, regular or prolonged contact with someone for the bacteria to pass between you. Even when this happens, it is unlikely you will become ill because fortunately most of us have natural resistance.

The bacteria cannot live long in the air, so they do not survive for more than a few moments outside the human body. They are not carried on everyday objects like clothes, toys, crockery, furniture or bedding.

FREEFONE HELPLINE: 1800 41 33 44 (staffed 24 hours a day by medical personnel)

WEBSITE: www.meningitis.org (available in 22 languages)

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