Rise in Scottish meningitis and septicaemia deaths

FOUR deaths caused by meningitis and septicaemia have been reported in Scotland so far this year - compared to just one at the same time in 2012, figures show.

Doctors have not treated any cases of Meningitis C in Scotland this year. Picture: PA
Doctors have not treated any cases of Meningitis C in Scotland this year. Picture: PA

Health Protection Scotland (HPS) said that three of the four deaths were linked to type B meningococcal disease, which causes both illnesses.

Last month it emerged that a vaccine to provide some protection against meningococcal B looked unlikely to be introduced in the UK after advice from experts.

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But campaigners have continued to push for the jab to be offered as children continue to die from the disease.

The HPS report said 46 cases of meningococcal disease had been reported in Scotland in the first six months of the year, similar to the 47 cases recorded at the same time last year.

But four of these patients died - a fatality rate of 8.7 per cent - compared to just one during the same period last year, and two in 2011.

Three of the deaths this year were linked to septicaemia, while the other had both septicaemia and meningitis.

The majority of the cases reported - 21 patients - were aged under five, with 11 aged five to 24 and 14 over 25.

Dr Alison Smith-Palmer, from HPS, said the situation was being monitored but the deaths were not linked and were of different strains.

“We are monitoring it but there is no link between the cases,” she said.

“They are spread over time during the six months and are spread over Scotland.”

The meningitis B vaccine is only effective against around 70 per cent of strains of the infection, but campaigners believe it should be introduced in the UK.

No cases of meningitis C have been reported in Scotland this year. It follows the introduction of a vaccine against this form of the disease in 1999.

Chris Head, chief executive of Meningitis Research Foundation, said: “Meningitis is a disease feared by most parents and rightly so, as the UK’s child mortality rates are among the highest in Europe.

“A new vaccine for Meningococcal B infection is currently under consideration and may not be introduced because of costs.

“We are extremely disappointed by this and campaigning hard for a change of heart.”

Meningitis UK founder Steve Dayman said the increase in cases in Scotland was worrying.

“Meningitis B is the most common form of the disease in the UK and the figures show that we need the UK’s first Meningitis B vaccine, Bexsero, available to all children as a routine vaccination,” he said.