Belfast Telegraph

As two Northern Ireland children diagnosed with meningococcal infections, these are the warning signs parents need to recognise

A meningococcal infection can develop into meningitis or septicaemia
A meningococcal infection can develop into meningitis or septicaemia

By Eimear McGovern and Andrew Madden

Two children have been hospitalised after being diagnosed with meningococcal infections at an Armagh primary school.

The families of both children, who attend Birches Primary School in Armagh, have received antibiotics along with other pupils and staff.

A meningococcal infection can develop into meningitis or septicaemia.

A spokesperson for the Public Health Agency (PHA) said: "This is being done as a precautionary measure and the risk to the wider public is extremely low."

They said the PHA is being kept informed about all cases of probable or confirmed meningococcal infection.

DUP MLA Jonathan Buckley has said it's an 'alarming development'.

"Understandably there is a lot of anxiety among parents,  Given the widespread sickness filtering around local schools currently, I would advise parents to be vigilant, attentive and inform themselves of the symptoms of the infection."

Dr Gillian Armstrong from the Public Health Agency said it's rare to get a cluster of cases like this.

"There different types of this bacteria, the most common are B, C W and Y and we now have a vaccination for all four of these strains. Since then its much less common than it was 10 of 15 years ago. It's very rare to get a cluster of cases like this - we only see about 25-30 cases each year, when we would have previously seen over 100.

"Like any infection some people are more susceptible than others and we don't entirely know the reasons for that, because it can affect healthy children. About 10 to 20% of the population will carry this bacteria in the back of the nose and throat, and that's normal and doesn't cause the individual any problem whatsoever and it doesn't cause a problem for the majority of the people who come into contact with that individual."

Dr Armstrong said it's not common for the disease to spread because more people are protected due to vaccines.

"The risk of another child or adult getting meningococcal disease is very small, but its sensible to be aware of the symptoms. At the beginning it can be hard to identify somebody with meningitis from a bad case of flu.

"However your child will become more unwell over the space of a few hours and the symptoms parents should be aware of are: high temperature, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, headache, stiff neck, aversion to bright lights, a bruising-like rash that doesn't go away when you roll a glass over it.

"It's treated with antibiotics and you'll need to attend hospital if you are displaying any of those symptoms. The sooner you get treatment, the better, because it can be a nasty infection if left and it can lead to complications if not treated properly."

The PHA said it will take appropriate actions following national guidelines and said everyone should be aware of the signs and symptoms of the infection.

Early symptoms of the disease may include:

•       a high temperature (fever) over 37.5C (99.5F)

•       being sick

•       a headache

•       a blotchy rash that doesn't fade when a glass is rolled over it (this won't always develop)

•       a stiff neck

•       a dislike of bright lights

•       drowsiness or unresponsiveness

•       seizures (fits)

Babies with meningococcal disease tend to be irritable when picked up and have a high pitched cry, stiff body and jerking movements.

"Should anyone develop any of these they should contact their GP or local Emergency Department immediately," said the PHA.

Further information on the illness can be found at

Belfast Telegraph Digital


From Belfast Telegraph