See Frequently Asked Questions about meningococcal C
The BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) has recently recorded an unusually high number of meningococcal C infections in gay men in the Lower Mainland and in BC. Infections have resulted in meningitis (infections of the lining of the brain) and blood-stream infections, and have proven fatal in three cases.
There were no connections between these cases meaning the bacteria causing these infections have become more common in the gay community. While most people who carry the bacteria don’t get sick, in rare cases infection can cause brain damage or death, so it is important to know what you can do to protect yourself.
The best way to protect yourself is to get vaccinated. Local public health departments are offering free meningococcal C vaccine for all gay and bisexual men. Based on our experience in the past with these infections in other groups, we know that if enough gay men get vaccinated then we can stop these infections from happening.
The vaccine takes 10 days to give you full protection, so there are other important things you can do to protect yourself. These bacteria are mainly spread via saliva through sharing drinks or glasses, water bottles, eating utensils, toothbrushes, cigarettes or joints, or through kissing on the lips or mouth.
The bacteria can also be carried in the penis and could be transmitted during oral sex. You can protect yourself by not taking part in activities where saliva is shared, and using a condom during oral sex, until the bacteria stops spreading in the gay community.
The symptoms of these infections include bad headaches, a stiff neck, vomiting, confusion, and feeling very sick. If you have these symptoms then you should go to your local emergency room immediately. Other symptoms can include fever, nausea, feeling unwell, or a skin rash of tiny reddish-purple bruise-like spots.
For more information about these infections or where to go to get your free vaccine please call your local public health department or go to the BCCDC website (www.bccdc.org). If you live in or travel to the Vancouver area, information on where you can go to get vaccine can be found on the VCH website (www.vch.ca).
On Southern Vancouver Island
Outer Gulf Islands 539-3099
Salt Spring Island 548-4880
West Shore 478-1757