Influenza and Meningitis Vaccines

An important message from Heather Whalen, Nurse Practitioner of Student Health Services at Brock University.

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

Influenza

Influenza (the flu) is a potentially serious respiratory infection caused by an influenza virus. In Canada, influenza causes approximately 12,200 hospitalizations and is considered one of the top causes of leading to 3,500 deaths each year in Canada. Most people with influenza will recover within a week to ten days, but even uncomplicated influenza can interfere with schoolwork and cause students to miss class. Some people are at higher risk of developing more severe complications. A great way to prevent getting influenza is getting your flu shot every year.

The seasonal influenza 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. Getting the flu shot will also help prevent you passing influenza along to people who may be more at risk from complications such as babies, the elderly or people with poor immune systems.

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.  Very few 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 immune response can happen after any vaccine and is the body’s immune system ramping up and creating antibodies to protect you. After the flu shot, if you get exposed to the flu virus later on, your body has some immunity to fight it. For most people vaccines, including the flu shot, are very well tolerated.

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.

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 who are sick to differentiate between symptoms. Getting influenza 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
  • wash hands frequently
  • cough and sneeze into your arm
  • avoid people who are sick
  • stay home if you are unwell
  • don’t touch your face and if you use a tissue dispose of it as soon as possible and wash your hands after

Meningitis

Meningococcal disease is a rare disease caused by a type of bacteria called Neisseria meningitides and, if not treated quickly, can lead to swelling of the fluid surrounding the brain (meningitis) and spinal cord or a serious bloodstream infection. 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.

Young adults, especially those living in university residence, represent a group who are at increased risk of contracting meningococcal disease because of close living arrangements. The bacteria 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.

Meningitis Vaccines

In Ontario, infants and students are routinely vaccinated to protect them from meningococcal disease. The quadrivalent meningococcal ACYW-135 (Menactra®, Menveo®, Niminrix®) vaccine is typically given in grade 7 and is also recommended as a booster as you start post-secondary school especially if you had it more than five years ago. 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.

To obtain or inquire about an immunization record, or for general immunization information, please contact your local public health unit.

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

Yours sincerely,

Heather Whalen,
Nurse Practitioner, Student Health Services