see: Health Alert for gay men in BC

What is meningococcal infection?

Meningococcal infection is caused by a strain of bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis. These bacteria can cause infections of the lining of the brain meningitis) and infections of the bloodstream (septicemia). Infections are rare – most of the people who carry the bacteria do not have symptoms and do not develop infections.

How is it transmitted?

Meningococcal bacteria are spread from one person to another by close, direct contact with saliva, or with droplets from the nose or throat of the infected person. This can occur through activities such as:

kissing or sharing of food, drinks, cigarettes, joints, lip balms, water bottles, mouth guards used for sports, and mouthpieces of musical instruments. It can also be transmitted by kissing on the lips or mouth – both casually among friends or family and with sexual partners.

There is no increased risk from handshaking or handholding, or being in the same room or vehicle as an infected person. It is not a risk to be near someone who has been in contact with an infected person.

How do you know whether you’re infected?

People can carry the bacteria without becoming ill, but can pass it onto others who do become ill. However, meningococcal infection can be very serious, sometimes causing brain damage or death, so it is important to protect yourself. The first symptoms of meningococcal infection are similar to the flu and include fever, bad headache, stiff neck, vomiting, confusion and feeling very sick. Should you develop these symptoms, proceed immediately to the emergency department of your local hospital. Other symptoms can include nausea, feeling unwell, or a skin rash of tiny reddish-purple bruise-like spots.

Why are we concerned about these infections now?

A meningococcal C vaccination program for gay men and teens is being launched province-wide after an unusually high number of cases were reported in recent weeks. The BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) has recorded 19 cases of invasive meningococcal C disease so far this year, with a high proportion – 16 – in men.

see: Health Alert for gay Men in BC

This information is from the the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC).

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