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Meningococcal Disease

Invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) is a serious infection caused by bacteria called Neisseria meningitides.
What are the meningococcal disease?
Approximately 10 percent of healthy people carry the Neisseria bacteria in their nose and throat without ever becoming ill. When the bacteria overcomes a person’s natural defenses invasive meningococcal disease occurs.
Serious forms of IMD include: meningitis (infection of the lining of the brain) and septicaemia (infection of the bloodstream).
Symptoms of IMD can come on very fast and include a sudden onset of fever, severe headache, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, neck stiffness, sensitivity to light, a red to purple blotchy rash, confusion and in severe cases coma. Infants may be irritable, drowsy and difficult to wake up, have a high pitched cry, dislike being held, feed poorly, and have rapid breathing.
How is it spread?
IMD spreads through close direct contact with the nose and throat secretions of an infected person or carrier. Coughing and sneezing into the face of another person, kissing, sharing eating utensils, drinks, cigarettes and toothbrushes are examples of how contact with another person's respiratory secretions might occur.
Meningococcal vaccine
There are a number of vaccines that will protect against meningococcal disease. Meningococcal vaccination is recommended for:
  • All children at 12 months of age as part of Ontario’s routine immunization schedule.
  • Adolescents in grade 7 and unimmunized young adults ages 15 -19.
  • Close contacts of a person with IMD are offered vaccination if the person who is sick has a type of meningococcal disease that can be prevented by vaccination.
  • People with certain medical conditions that put them risk for meningococcal disease such as HIV, cochlear implant recipients and people without a spleen.
  • People who travel to parts of the world where meningococcal infection is common. 
More to know 
  • Wash your hands regularly especially after coughing or sneezing and before handling or eating food.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, use a tissue or your sleeve, not your hand.
  • Do not share anything that has been in contact with someone else’s saliva such as eating utensils, lipstick, straws and water bottles.
  • If you develop symptoms of meningitis see a health care provider right a way.
  • IMD can be treated with antibiotics. People who have been in close contact with a person diagnosed with IMD are given antibiotics as a preventive measure.
  • Casual contacts such as classmates and co-workers usually do not require antibiotic treatment. It is still important for them to monitor for any signs of illness and seek medical advice from a healthcare provider.