Meningococcal cases spark warning

April 26, 2009

By: Hank Daniszewski, Sun Media,

The Middlesex-London Health Unit issued a warning today after four people in the London area were recently diagnosed with type B meningococcal disease, including one child who died of the condition.

The cases involve two people in their twenties, one individual in their forties. The most recent case was a young child, who died last week.

It was the first time the B strain has been reported in London since 2005.

Dr. Bryna Warshawsky, associate medical officer of health said there appear to be no direct links between the four people diagnosed with the disease.

"To have four cases with no direct connection indicates it may be circulating in the community," she said.

In the past the health unit has conducted vaccination programs to combat outbreaks of meningococcal disease but Warshawsky said that is not possible this time because meningococcal B is the only one of the five meningococcal strains that cannot be prevented with a vaccine.

The health unit has investigated each of the new meningococcal case and ensured that antibiotics have been provided to anyone who had close contact with the four people diagnosed.

Warshawsky said most people have a natural immunity to meningococcal disease or are able to fight it off with almost no symptoms.

But in a small number of people, the disease progresses quickly, sometimes with hours. Symptoms include sudden fever, headache, stiff neck and vomiting. A red, pinpoint rash also may develop.

Meningococcal disease infects the lining of the brain or bloodstream and kills about 10 per cent of patients.

The disease spreads when an infected person's saliva enters another's mouth or nose, for example by sharing drinks.

Warshawsky said an average of 27 cases of meningococcal B are reported in Ontario each year.

What to Do to Avoid Meningococcal Disease

B seek medical attention for the sudden onset of symptoms such as fever, headache, stiff neck, vomiting and a red pin-point rash. Babies may be very irritable or drowsy

B do not share drinks cigarettes utensils, toothbrushes, mouthpieces from musical instrument or any other object that may have come in contact with another person's saliva

B avoid kissing children on the mouth

B frequently clean toys that may have been in a child's mouth

B cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing

B wash your hands frequently or used hand sanitizers

B Smoking and being near smokers increases the risk of meningococcal disease

Source:Middlesex-London Health Unit




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