Meningococcal disease outbreak declared in Toronto – know the symptoms

Toronto Public Health (TPH) declared a meningitis outbreak after confirming three cases of invasive meningococcal disease in the city.

The three affected individuals, who are between 20 and 30 years old, began experiencing symptoms between July 15 and July 17 and were born outside of Canada in countries not providing childhood immunization against meningococcal disease. One of the individuals has died, TPH said in a statement.

TPH says it has not been able to identify a link between these cases. All three individuals have recently been confirmed to have the same rare strain of serogroup C meningococcal disease.

Adults between 20 and 36 years old who have not received a meningococcal disease vaccine are strongly recommended to contact their health care provider to receive a meningococcal disease vaccine as soon as possible. TPH says it will monitor vaccine demand and is actively exploring additional vaccination channels.

Meningococcal disease refers to any illness caused by bacteria called Neisseria meningitides. These illnesses are often severe, can be deadly, and include infections of the lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) and bloodstream. Symptoms begin with fever, aches, joint pain, headache, stiff neck and photophobia. Individuals who are experiencing these symptoms, should call their health care provider.

Symptoms of meningococcal disease – photo: CDC.gov

People spread meningococcal bacteria to other people by sharing respiratory and throat secretions (saliva or spit). Generally, it takes close or lengthy contact to spread these bacteria, according to the TPH statement. Keeping up to date with recommended vaccines is the best protection against meningococcal disease.

More information about the invasive meningococcal disease is available on the City of Toronto website: www.toronto.ca/community-people/health-wellness-care/diseases-medications-vaccines/meningococcal-type-c-vaccine/.

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