KFL&A Public Health advises of invasive meningococcal disease activity in the area

Meningococcal disease is caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis. The bacterium is often detected in the nasopharynx without causing disease, a situation described as asymptomatic carriage. The bacteria occasionally invade the body and cause meningococcal infection, which is an acute severe bacterial infection. Image via European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

After releasing a statement advising local residents of increased measles activity in the province, Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health is now alerting the public that they have seen an increase in invasive meningococcal disease (type B) activity here in the KFL&A area.

In a media release, dated Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024, the local Health Unit said that in recent months, the region has experienced three confirmed cases of this serious bacterial infection, with no identifiable link between them. This count is reportedly above the KFL&A region’s historical average.

Public Health explained that invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) is a rare but potentially life-threatening bacterial infection. It can infect the brain and spinal cord (meningitis), and the bloodstream (septicemia). All meningococcal infections are medical emergencies. Symptoms may initially resemble the flu, then rapidly worsen.

“Invasive meningococcal disease is a serious infection that can progress rapidly and have severe consequences if not treated promptly,” said Dr. Piotr Oglaza, medical officer of health at KFL&A Public Health. “It’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms of meningococcal disease and seek medical care immediately if illness is suspected.”

IMD symptoms can include:

  • sudden fever
  • intense headache
  • stiff neck
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • sensitivity to light
  • purplish skin rash

According to the release, meningococcal bacteria spreads person to person through close and direct contact (e.g., open-mouth kissing or sharing of drinking cups, eating utensils, vapes, etc).

Meningococcal B (MenB) vaccine is not routinely offered in Ontario except to people who have certain high-risk medical conditions, Public Health stated. Meningococcal C vaccine is given at one year of age and meningococcal ACYW-135 vaccine is administered in Grade 7.

“As we continue to work with partners to investigate, we encourage residents 25 years of age and under to ensure they are up-to-date with routine meningococcal vaccines. Individuals who do not meet the high-risk criteria for meningococcal B vaccine are encouraged to contact their health care provider to consider privately purchased immunization against meningococcal B,” KFL&A Public Health advised.

For more information about invasive meningococcal disease and vaccination, visit kflaph.ca/IMD.

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