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Understanding meningococcal disease – Guide for parents

(NC) When it comes to health, being in the 'age of information' trying to determine what you need to know to keep your family healthy can be overwhelming. Meningococcal disease is a complex illness and can be confusing to parents. The disease is caused by germs that may result in serious, and sometimes life-threatening, infections – the one you may be most familiar with is meningitis. To help distinguish between myths and facts, read on to learn more about the disease and how to protect your family.

There is only one type of meningitis. MYTH – Meningitis comes in three forms: viral, fungal and bacterial.Bacterial meningitis is unpredictable, may progress rapidly and requires immediate medical attention. The bacteria Neisseria meningitidis is what causes meningococcal disease, of which strains A, B, C, W, and Y account for most cases. In Canada, MenB is the most common form of bacterial meningitis.

Meningococcal disease has flu-like symptoms.FACT –Most common symptoms of this disease are similar to that of the flu and include fever, headache, stiff neck and vomiting. Due to these symptoms, cases of bacterial meningitis can initially be misdiagnosed. “Being aware of the symptoms is critical, as meningococcal disease can rapidly progress and consequences are often devastating,” said Dr. Ron Gold, Senior Medical Advisor, Member of the Board of Directors of the Meningitis Research Foundation of Canada. “The best protection against meningitis infection is vaccination. Talk to your doctor about immunization against vaccine-preventable disease.”

One vaccine protects against all strains of meningococcal disease. MYTH –Although vaccines for A, C, W and Y have been available, until now we have had no vaccine available to protect against the B strain, known as MenB. MenB is responsible for 80 per cent of meningococcal cases in infants. Canadian parents should talk to their doctor about Bexsero, the only vaccine to protect against meningococcal meningitis caused by the B strain.

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