Invasive meningococcal disease is a rare but potentially devastating disease. It is characterized by rapid onset and can be fatal in up to 10 per cent of infected people in as little as 24 hours following the first symptoms.1,2 For survivors, the disease can result in life-altering, significant long-term disabilities.3 Approximately 100 people are affected by meningococcal disease every year in Canada.2
Meningococcal disease can refer to any illness that is caused by a type of bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis.5 There are five common groups of this bacteria that cause invasive meningococcal disease – A, B, C, W-135 and Y.5 Meningococcal disease can progress rapidly, and early symptoms are difficult to distinguish from other more common infections, such as the flu.6 This disease can lead to meningitis (inflammation of the protective membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord) and serious blood infections.6
The bacteria that cause meningococcal disease can be spread from person to person through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions, which can occur through kissing, coughing, or sharing food or drinks.1
While meningococcal disease can occur at any age, children under five and adolescents 15 to 18 years old are among the most at risk.7 Up to 10% of adolescents and adults can be carriers of meningococcal bacteria, meaning that the bacteria can be found in the back of their throat, even if it does not cause them to get sick.5
Meningococcal disease can progress rapidly, and early symptoms are difficult to distinguish from other more common infections – with flu-like symptoms such as headache, nausea and vomiting.6 Later symptoms may include drowsiness, difficulty breathing, neck stiffness, sensitivity to light, rash, confusion, or delirium and may lead to death within 24 hours.1,2
The most effective way to protect against meningococcal disease is to make sure adolescents and young adults are up to date with their recommended vaccines.8 There are different vaccines available to help protect against the five common groups of meningococcal disease: a vaccine that helps protect against groups A, C, W-135 and Y, and different vaccines that help protect against groups B and C.9
Speak to your pharmacists or healthcare practitioner to find out how to help protect yourself and your family.
Vaccines may not fully protect everyone who is vaccinated.
Government of Canada. Invasive Meningococcal Disease (For Health Professionals). Available at: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/immunization/vaccine-preventable-diseases/invasive-meningococcal-disease/health-professionals.html. Last accessed July 2019.
World Health Organization. Meningococcal meningitis. Fact sheet 141. Available at http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs141/en/. Last accessed July 2019.
Sadarangani M et al. “Clin Infect Dis. 2015 Apr 15;60(8):e27-35. doi: 10.1093/cid/civ028. Epub 2015 Jan 20. Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25605282. Last accessed July 2019.
City of Toronto. Meningococcal Disease Fact Sheet. Available at https://www.toronto.ca/community-people/health-wellness-care/diseases-medications-vaccines/meningococcal-disease-fact-sheet/. Last accessed July 2019.
Epidemiology and prevention of vaccine-preventable diseases: meningitis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/mening.html. Last accessed July 2019.
Meningococcal meningitis: signs and symptoms. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/about/symptoms.html. Last accessed July 2019.
Government of Canada. Invasive Meningococcal Disease (Risks). Available at https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/immunization/vaccine-preventable-diseases/invasive-meningococcal-disease/risks.html. Last accessed August 2019.
Public Health Agency of Canada. Meningococcal Vaccine: Canadian Immunization Guide. Available at https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/healthy-living/canadian-immunization-guide-part-4-active-vaccines/page-13-meningococcal-vaccine.html. Last accessed July 2019.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Bacterial Meningitis. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/meningitis/bacterial.html. Last Accessed July 2019.