Some Canadian Provinces Experience a Surge in IMD

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

Toronto Public Health recently reported a rise in IMD cases since the beginning of 2024, with 13 cases so far this year, surpassing annual totals since 2002. Of these cases, two have been fatal.

Manitoba also reported a continuing spike in IMD cases since December 2023, while health officials in Kingston, Ontario, noted a rise in bacterial infection cases in February. Several countries, including the United States, are experiencing similar increases in IMD cases, leading health officials to warn that outbreaks can occur during travel and at 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. “You find them in maybe 20 to 30 percent of normal, healthy teenagers and young adults. They can carry the bacteria in their throat without getting sick but can spread it to others.”

He added that while teenagers and young adults are the primary carriers of the bacteria, the reasons behind this phenomenon remain unknown. In Canada, 100 to 400 cases of meningitis are reported annually, with a fatality rate of 10 percent among affected individuals. Infections commonly occur during the winter and spring months.

Young children under two are the most susceptible to IMD because they haven’t developed immunity yet, making them particularly vulnerable. The elderly are also at increased risk.

IMD is a rare but serious bacterial disease with a relatively high fatality rate and significant long-term effects, including limb amputations and permanent central nervous system injuries, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). It is caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis, which can lead to meningitis (inflammation of the brain and spinal cord), blood infections, and meningococcal pneumonia.

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