Rise in invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) reported in Toronto: TPH

Toronto’s public health unit says there’s been an increase in invasive meningococcal disease (IMD), a potentially life-threatening bacterial infection “that can progress suddenly.”

In a news release issued on Friday, TPH said 13 meningococcal disease cases have been reported this year, which is higher than the total number of cases seen since 2002. Of those, two have been fatal.

Invasive meningococcal disease is a severe illness caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis, also known as meningococcus. It can spread through respiratory droplets (coughing, sneezing) or direct contact with respiratory secretions from an infected person.

The disease can affect people of any age but is most common in children under five years old, teens and young adults who are not vaccinated against IMD.

Public health unit says vaccination is best form of protection against IMD

TPH said several countries, including the U.S., are reporting more IMD cases this year, and they’re occurring among those who have and have not travelled outside of Canada. TPH recommends that travellers are protected with meningococcal vaccination, including those travelling to the Hajj – an annual pilgrimage from June 14 to June 19 that draws approximately two million people to Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

The public health unit is also recommending vaccination for those participating in local and international Pride events.

person holding white ballpoint pen
Toronto Public Health (TPH) is reporting an increase in invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) cases. Photo: Unsplash.

“Keeping up to date with recommended vaccines is the best protection against IMD,” TPH wrote. “Adults between 18 and 36 years old who have not received a meningococcal vaccine are eligible for a publicly funded immunization. Individuals are strongly recommended to contact their health care provider to receive a meningococcal vaccine as soon as possible.”

Symptoms of invasive meningococcal disease can include fever, headache, stiff neck, sensitivity to light, confusion, nausea, vomiting, rash, and in severe cases, coma or death. Rapid diagnosis and treatment with antibiotics are crucial for managing invasive meningococcal disease, TPH said.

If you experience any symptoms, you’re asked to seek immediate medical attention. 

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