Speech by NDSC Director, Dr Darina O'Flanagan at the launch of the NDSC 2002 Annual Report

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I'd like to thank Minister Callely for coming along today to launch the National Disease Surveillance Centre's Annual Report for 2002.

The 2002 report builds on work covered in previous years and will be a comprehensive source of information for anyone with an interest in infectious disease in Ireland.

This is our fourth report and it highlights - more than ever the remarkable achievements in recent years in the field of communicable disease control.

The breakthrough in the battle against meningococcal disease is particularly pleasing for people working in public health in Ireland.

Meningococcal disease - the most common form of bacterial meningitis in Ireland - accounts for up to 90% of cases and has declined significantly since the introduction of the MenC vaccine in October 2000. 

Before the vaccine was introduced we averaged 130 cases and six deaths from group C disease each year. In 2002 there were just 14 cases of group C disease and no deaths.

New figures released by NDSC today - show just three cases in 2003. This is a ringing endorsement of the remarkable success of the vaccination programme.   

This represents an almost 98% decrease in group C disease in Ireland since the vaccine was introduced.  

It means that 127 fewer families suffered the trauma of childhood meningococcal disease in 2003.   

The MenC vaccination campaign has been a major public health success story. To build on this success it is vital that the current MenC uptake levels are maintained and improved on.  

We must remain vigilant. The advice to parents remains the same. We must ensure that infants less than one year of age receive the recommended three doses at 2, 4 and 6 months and that older children between 1 and 22 years of age who have not already availed of the MenC vaccine receive the recommended dose.

The vaccine is available free from GPs.

Unfortunately however, there is no vaccine available yet for Group B disease. Its incidence remains high in Ireland and therefore, it is vital that parents and health care professionals remain alert for signs and symptoms of the disease.
 
Classical symptoms and signs include temperature, severe headache, neck stiffness, nausea and/or vomiting, dislike of bright lights, drowsiness and joint or muscle pains. The patient may be confused and disoriented or have fitting episodes.

It remains for me to thank all of the staff at NDSC for their ongoing commitment and professionalism throughout the year.

Our Annual Report is a microcosm of the work carried out by public health professionals around the country and will be an invaluable reference source for anyone with an interested in communicable diseases in 2003.