Invasive meningococcal disease on the rise in some provinces.

Cases of invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) are rising in some provinces, prompting health officials to warn Canadians about the serious risks and emphasize the importance of vaccination.

Last week, Toronto Public Health reported an increase in IMD cases since the beginning of 2024 in the region. So far this year, there have been 13 reported cases, surpassing the annual totals seen since 2002. Of those, two have been fatal, the agency stated.

This week, Manitoba reported a continuing spike in IMD cases since December 2023, while health officials in Kingston, Ont., warned of a rise in bacterial infection cases in February.

Several countries, including the United States, are reporting increases in cases of IMD this year, prompting health officials to warn that outbreaks of the disease can happen while travelling and in mass gatherings.

“Meningococcal is a potentially very dangerous bacteria. There are many different strains of it, some of which cause disease,” explained Dr. Ronald Gold, senior medical adviser of the Meningitis Research Foundation of Canada. “And you find them in maybe 20 per cent or 30 per cent of normal, healthy teenagers and young adults, they can carry the bacteria in their throat and they don’t get sick, but they can spread it to other people.”

He added that while teenagers and young adults appear to be the primary carriers of the bacteria, the reasons behind this phenomenon remain unknown.

In Canada, there are around 100 to 400 cases of meningitis reported every year, according to the Meningitis Foundation Canada, with the disease leading to fatalities in 10 per cent of all affected individuals. In Canada, infection often happens during the winter and spring months.

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