Meningitis warning after three die in Republic
Three people in the Republic have died from a killer form of meningitis in the last two weeks.
A spike in cases of the dangerous bug has struck 11 victims over Christmas and the New Year in Dublin and other regions in Ireland.
Health officials warned of a steep rise in meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia over the festive season.
Parents have been warned to be alert from symptoms and to seek urgent medical help in the event of a young child or adolescent falling ill.
Public health specialist Dr Suzanne Cotter said: "All age groups have been affected, ranging from infants to elderly.
"Of the three patients who died, two different strain types were identified."
The speed of the infection, which can be confused with cold or flu, makes it one of the most feared illnesses by parents and doctors. Dr Cotter added: "Parents of children should also check that they are up-to-date regarding their childhood meningococcal vaccinations."
There has been a fall in the uptake of meningococcal vaccines among children in the Republic in recent years leaving thousands at risk.
Meningitis is inflammation of the membranes that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord, and some bacteria that cause the infection can also cause sepsis (blood poisoning).
While anyone can get meningitis, certain groups are more at risk, including young children under the age of five, and young adults in the 15-24 age group.
Meningococcal meningitis, which is the bacterial form of the disease and is responsible for 1,500 cases a year in the UK, can cause death in as little as four hours from the onset of symptoms.