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Meningococcal vaccine for youth now available

Since 2009, meningococcal conjugate quadrivalent vaccine has been publicly-funded to protect against four strains of invasive meningococcal disease (IMD), which includes meningitis or blood infections caused by types ACYW-135 Neisseria meningitidis bacteria.

(This replaces the previously funded Men C, which provided protection against C strain only).

The Northwestern Health Unit will be offering this vaccine to Grade 7 students at school clinics this spring.

Meningococcal bacteria is spread through saliva or “spit” passing from one person to another by, for example, sharing food, utensils, cups or bottles, lip balm or lipstick, cigarettes, or musical instruments.

Symptoms of IMD include headache, fever and fatigue, stiff neck, sensitivity to light, dizziness, and sometimes a red blotchy rash.

Outbreaks often happen in schools, dormitories, and in the community, affecting infants, teens, and young adults most often.

IMD can be treated with antibiotics, but since it can spread and kill quickly, prevention is ideal.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), the Canadian Pediatric Society, and the Northwestern Health Unit strongly recommend that all eligible students be immunized with the meningococcal conjugate ACYW-135 vaccine.

Anyone born in 1998 who is home-schooled also can obtain the vaccine, free of charge, by making an appointment with their Northwestern Health Unit office or their family physician.

Students and parents interested in clinic locations and times should contact their health unit office.

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