Share the Love, Share the Health
Spring – season of love and of brand new arrivals. Love is meant to be shared, and so is protection against preventable disease. The more of us are vaccinated against common, easily transmitted illnesses, the healthier we will be as a population – whether that group immunity is shared in a family, a classroom, or a community. Vaccination can enhance population-wide protection against some common diseases. This year welcomes a new vaccine against meningococcus serogroup B (MenB), a common cause of meningococcal infection for which, until recently,1 there has been no vaccine.2
Meningococcal bacteria can cause invasive meningococcal disease (IMD), a rare life-threatening infection that comes on suddenly and can be fatal. IMD can occur as bacterial meningitis (an inflammation of the tissue surrounding the brain and spinal cord) or meningococcemia (a widespread infection of the blood and other organs).3 Most infections are associated with types A, B, C, Y, and W-135.2
Meningococcal disease is transmitted by close person-to-person contact – and who gets closer than kids and teens? In Canada, meningococcal B accounts for 4 of 5 meningococcal cases in infants younger than one year of age, and about two-thirds of cases in children aged one to four year and adolescents aged 15 to 19 years.4 Rates of meningococcal disease caused by serogroup C, previously the most common cause of this illness, have declined in Canada since introduction of vaccines against meningococcal C in 2001.2
It is hoped that December 2013 approval of the new vaccine 4CMenB against meningococcus B may further reduce meningococcal infection rates to very low levels.1 It was studied in more than 8,000 infants, children, adolescents and adults before receiving approval, and can be given to infants as young as 2 months of age. It can be used on its own or given at the same time as other routine vaccines. The most common adverse events, local injection site reactions and fever, are typical with other vaccines. These were generally mild-to-moderate and resolved within 24 to 48 hours in 95% of cases.4
Dr. Ron Gold, Senior Medical Advisor of the Meningitis Research Foundation of Canada and retired Chief of Infectious Disease at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, is quoted in a [December 9 2013] press release by [Novartis] the makers of the new vaccine as saying that “the new MenB vaccine has the potential to fill the last remaining gap in vaccines to prevent all of the major causes of bacterial meningitis outside of the newborn period.”1
Symptoms of meningitis – high fever, headache, stiff neck, vomiting and drowsiness – can be mistaken for flu symptoms. It may also cause sensitivity to bright light, confusion, and a purplish skin rash. Meningitis comes on suddenly and can result in fatality within a day or two1 - anyone with these symptoms requires immediate medical attention.3
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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.
Note: the hyperlinks that direct to other sites are not continuously updated. It is possible that some links become untraceable over time. Thank you.
- Health Canada Approves Bexsero*, the First Vaccine Available to Prevent Meningococcal Serogroup B (MenB).
- National Advisory Committee on Immunization. (2013) Update on the use of Quadrivalent Conjugate Meningococcal Vaccines. Canada Communicable Disease Report. January 2013; Vol. 39, ACS-1: 1-40.
- Meningococcal Disease - Immunize Canada.
- New vaccine under review by Health Canada targets meningococcal serogroup B. Immunization Education Initiative. April 10, 2013.