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July 25, 2001
Public Health announces meningitis vaccine clinics
Toronto Public Health is announcing a schedule of meningitis vaccine clinics to
prevent the spread of the disease among men who have sex with men.

Clinics will be offered in a variety of locations during a four-week period
starting today and ending the middle of August. An education campaign has been
underway since an outbreak of meningitis among men who have sex with men was
declared last week. Five cases of the disease among this population have
recently been reported, including two cases resulting in death.

Dr. Rita Shahin, a Public Health Communicable Disease specialist, said the
vaccination program is an essential control measure. "We hope to reach anyone
in the target population who may be at risk of contracting the disease. The
vaccine provides broad protection and is now widely available through community
health clinics and other sites."

Public Health staff are working with community partners in providing the
vaccine clinics. Education activities promoting the clinics and awareness of
the disease will continue over the next several weeks.

For more information, see the BACKGROUNDER below - information given to
individuals who receive the vaccine.

Meningitis information sheet

What is Meningococcal Disease?

Meningococcal disease is a bacterial infection that 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, severe headache, a stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes a red
pinpoint rash with bruising. Most adults are naturally immune to the bacteria,
however some people will become severely ill. With timely treatment, most
people recover, but a few people may die from the infection.

How is it spread?

The bacteria that causes meningitis disease is carried in the nose and throat.
Meningitis is spread through saliva or secretions from an infected person's
nose or throat. It may be spread by kissing, by sharing items of food, drinks,
or other things that have been in the mouth or nose of an infected person. The
bacteria can also be spread through any form of sexual activity that involves
contact with saliva.

How well does meningococcal vaccine protect against meningococcal disease?

The quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine (Menomune) protects against four types
of meningococcal bacteria (A, C, Y, and W-135). About 90 per cent of people who
get the vaccine will be protected from meningococcal disease. However, it does
not work as well in people with serious immune system problems. It takes 10
days for the vaccination to become protective and protection can last for up to
five years.

What are the side effects of the meningococcal vaccine?

Most people who get the vaccine have either no side effects, or only a mild
reaction such as redness, tenderness or swelling where the needle was given.
Occasionally, mild fever, chills, headache and tiredness may occur. Reactions
usually resolve on their own in one or two days. Serious reactions such as
hives, wheezing, or swelling of the face or mouth are very rare. These
reactions usually occur within a few minutes to hours after the vaccine is
given. If you think an allergic reaction is developing, seek medical attention
right away.

Who should not get the meningococcal vaccine?
  • Anyone who is sick with a fever or infection worse than a cold on the day the needle is to be given.
  • Anyone who has had an allergic reaction to a previous dose of meningococcal vaccine.
  • Anyone who is allergic to Thimerosal.
  • Anyone who has received the meningococcal vaccine in the past three years.
  • Children under the age of two years.
For more information, call Toronto Public
Health at 416-338-7600.

Media Contact
Access Toronto

Media Contact: Vivian Snead
Toronto Public Health



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