Meningitis and Influenza Vaccines

An important message from Dr. Darrell Grant, Medical Director of Student Health Services at Brock University.

On behalf of Brock University Student Health Services and Wellness Clinic, I am writing to discuss the importance of protecting yourself from two vaccine preventable illnesses: bacterial meningitis and influenza.

Meningitis

Young adults, especially those living in university residential settings, represent a group that is at increased risk of contracting meningitis, a serious infection, which spreads from one person to another through close contact. Last year there were two cases of meningitis at Acadia University and this year there has been one case at McMaster University.

Meningococcal disease is a rare disease caused by a type of bacteria called Neisseria meningitides and, if not treated very early, can lead to swelling of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. This can cause severe and permanent disabilities such as hearing loss, brain damage, seizures, limb amputation and even death. There are five strains of this bacteria: A, B, C, Y and W-135.

We recommend the quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine (Men-C-ACWY) Menveo for those living in a university residence or similar accommodation. This covers four different strains of Neisseria meningitidis. If it was given more than five years before moving into a university residence, then a booster is recommended. Until recently there was no way to protect against the B strain, but there is a now a vaccine called Bexsero. It’s currently recommended for high-risk groups or anyone who desires protection against the B strain. It consists of two doses given at least a month apart.

We encourage you talk with your doctor or one of the doctors at the Student Health Services Medical Clinic and consider broad protection against this disease.

Influenza

Influenza

Influenza is potentially a serious infection. It causes about 3,500 deaths in Canada every year. Most people with uncomplicated influenza will recover within a week to ten days, but even uncomplicated influenza will likely interfere with schoolwork and cause absence from the learning environment. Some people are at higher risk of developing more severe complications, and a flu shot is a way to help prevent it.

The seasonal flu vaccine is safe and effective and remains the best protection against flu viruses. Everyone in Ontario over the age of six months is encouraged to get the vaccine.

Influenza and COVID-19

 Getting your flu shot is particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of the symptoms of COVID-19 and the seasonal flu overlap, potentially making it difficult for those effected to differentiate between symptoms. Getting the flu could compromise your immune system, making you become more susceptible to other illnesses (such as Covid-19)and you may experience more severe symptoms.

 Additional Steps to Staying Healthy

In addition to getting the flu shot, you can protect yourself by taking the following steps: continue to wear a mask, stay 6 feet away from people you do not live with, clean hands frequently, cough and sneeze into your arm, keep your hands away from your face and if you use a tissue dispose of it as soon as possible and wash your hands.

Side Effects of the Flu Vaccine

The most common side effects of the flu vaccine are mild redness and swelling at the injection site and a sore or achy arm for a short time.  Some people also feel headachy and a little run down for 24 to 48 hours after the flu shot and have mistaken this for the flu. This is actually the body’s immune system ramping up and creating antibodies against the flu. That way if you get exposed to the flu virus later on, your body has some immunity to fight it.

How to get your Flu Vaccine

If you have an OHIP card you can receive your flu shot at your local pharmacy.  International students and students at risk please call Brock’s Student Health Services at 289-968-9839 or email  the immunization nurse at immunizationRN@brocku.ca.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Darrell Grant
Medical Director, Student Health Services