A specialist in public health medicine for the Health Service Executive has urged parents to review their children's vaccinations and make sure they have had the meningitis inoculations.

Dr Suzanne Cotter said there has been a marked increase in meningitis cases over the last two weeks.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, she said that there are two vaccines available for children.

She added that there has been a fall off in the uptake of these vaccines in recent years, for reasons that are not known.

Dr Cotter said the disease is dangerous because it moves quickly and can progress very rapidly.

She explained that someone can present with the symptoms and lose consciousness within a number of hours.

Time, she said, is of the essence.

Dr Cotter said the classic symptoms of the disease are fever, vomiting, a dislike of bright lights and a rash that does not blanch under a glass.

Separately, a consultant in infectious diseases at Beaumont Hospital has warned that children aged between six months and six years are most at risk of developing meningitis.

Speaking on Today with Sean O'Rourke, Professor Sam McConkey said that those living in overcrowded conditions and those between the ages of 15 and 25, are also in the at-risk category.

Mr McConkey said that those living in overcrowded conditions and those between the ages of 15 and 25, are also in the at-risk category. 

In terms of warning signs, Prof McConkey said that people should be watching out for a number of symptoms and that the disease is spread through respiratory droplets, with vaccination the best prevention.

Early symptoms can include; fever, headache, vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle pain, stomach cramps, fever with cold hands and feet and a rash.

The Health Service Executive yesterday reported an increase in meningococcal disease, with 11 cases notified to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) since the last week in December.

Three patients diagnosed with it have since died.

All three deaths were directly due to the infection.

The HSE said meningitis and septicaemia can often happen together and symptoms can appear in any order, while some may not appear at all.