London, ON – The Middlesex-London Health Unit is reminding residents how to reduce the risk of becoming sick as viruses and bacteria, including meningococcal disease, may be more likely to circulate at this time of year. The advice comes after the Health Unit was notified of a case of meningococcal disease in a Western University student late last week.
Because the bacterium that causes meningococcal disease is carried in the nose and throat and is spread when secretions from these areas come in contact with the mouth or nose of another person, the Health Unit recommends not putting anything in your mouth that has been in someone else’s mouth.
“Meningococcal disease, along with other bacteria and viruses, can spread when people share cigarettes, drinks, food or other objects that have been in someone else’s mouth. These activities should be avoided,” says Bryna Warshawsky, Associate Medical Officer of Health with the Middlesex-London Health Unit. “Other ways to protect against infections are getting recommended vaccinations, and frequent handwashing or the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers.”
Meningococcal disease can cause meningitis, a swelling of the lining of the brain and spinal cord or meningococcemia, an infection of the blood stream. People with meningococcal disease may have fever, headache, a stiff neck, nausea, vomiting and sometimes a red pin-point rash accompanied by bruising. As meningococcal disease progresses rapidly, medical advice should be sought as soon as possible if symptoms develop.
There are several types of meningococcal disease; some of which can be prevented through vaccination. Since 2005, one-year-olds in Ontario have been vaccinated routinely against serogroup C meningococcal disease; from 2005 to the first half of 2009, students in grade seven and those 15 to 19 years of age were also offered this protection. Since the fall of 2009, students in grade seven have been offered a new vaccine which prevents four types of meningococcal disease: serogroups A, C, Y and W135. No vaccine is currently available for serogroup B meningococcal disease.
For additional information about meningococcal disease and vaccinations, please call 519-663-5317 ext. 2330 or visit the Health Unit’s website at www.healthunit.com.
Dan Flaherty, Communications Manager, Middlesex-London Health Unit 519-663-5317 ext. 2469 or 519-617-0570 (cell)
Bryna Warshawsky, Associate Medical Officer of Health, Middlesex-London Health Unit