Protecting Loved Ones Against Meningitis
Meningitis is marked by inflammation of the meninges (the lining around the spinal cord and brain) due to an infection that can be caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi. 1 Bacterial meningitis is the most serious type, particularly for infants and young children. It can be fatal or cause permanent brain damage. Septicemia, a dangerous infection of the blood, also can occur with severe bacterial infections.2 The good news is that immunization can protect against many of the bacteria that cause bacterial meningitis.2
5 Ws of Bacterial Meningitis
Who is most affected? Young children and adolescents. University students are also at risk because of the sharing of items.3
What are the symptoms? Fever, irritability, lack of appetite, sore muscles and joints, sleepiness or trouble waking up, severe headache, stiff neck, sensitivity to bright light, nausea, vomiting, skin rash of red spots that do not disappear when you touch them (septicemia).2 ,4 Mild symptoms may worsen suddenly. Immediately seek medical attention if you suspect meningitis.
Where (and how) is it spread? Meningitis is transmitted through close contact such as coughing or sneezing, kissing, or by touching objects exposed to these bacteria.2 In addition to immunization, frequent hand washing is the best way to reduce transmission of germs.
Why immunize? Up to one in five healthy adults can be carriers of meningococcal meningitis without knowing that they have it,2 which means the bacteria could be passed on to children who are not immunized. Grandparents and anyone who has close contact with children should ensure that their vaccinations are up to date.
Immunizations against meningitis
Conjugated vaccines against the three major strains that lead to bacterial meningitis – meningococcus, pneumococcus, and Haemophilus influenzae type b – are now included in Canada’s routine childhood immunization programs.5 There are two main types of meningococcal conjugate vaccine currently available in Canada: serotype C meningococcal conjugate (MCV-C), and quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate meningococcal C vaccine conjugate (MCV-4) for serotypes A, C, Y, and W-135, which is effective in children two years and older against all four preventable types of the meningococcal germ.4
- Children should be immunized (MCV-C) at 12 months of age, and may also receive an earlier dose any time between two and 12 months of age
- Adolescents should receive a booster dose (MCV-C or MCV-4) at about 12 years of age
- Adults may require boosters to maintain protection, and individuals at increased risk may require additional immunization4
Vaccines to help protect against causes of meningitis
There are two types of vaccine: polysaccharide vaccines are not effective in infants less than 2 years of age; conjugated vaccines are effective in infants starting at 2 months of age, and may provide longer-lasting immunity.5
Vaccines Against Meningococcus
Conjugated ACYW135 Vaccine [MCV-4]
Conjugated C Vaccines [MCV-C]
- NeisVac C®
- ACYW135 (Menomune®) *no longer useful in children
- AC (Mencevax AC®)
Multicomponent B Vaccine
Vaccines Against Pneumococcus
Vaccines Against Haemophilus influenzae type b
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This information should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your doctor. There may be variations in treatment that your physician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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- Meningitis Research Foundation of Canada What is meningitis?
- What you need to know about meningococcal meningitis - Immunize Your Child - Public Health Agency of Canada
- Shapiro M. Your Health - CTV MedNews Express. Many Canadians still confused about how to prevent meningitis. October 11, 2011.
- Meningitis Research Foundation of Canada.
- CPS Infectious Diseases and Immunization Committee. Meningococcal vaccine. Updated: April 2012