Rise of invasive meningococcal disease prompts 5,000% spike in web searches for symptoms — plus other health questions Canadians are asking this week

From infectious disease symptoms to ways to live longer, here's what Canadians were searching online this week.

Woman working on laptop online, checking emails and planning on the internet while sitting in an office alone at work. Business woman, corporate professional or manager searching the internet
What were Canadians searching for online? (Image via Getty Images)

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified medical professional before engaging in any physical activity, or making any changes to your diet, medication or lifestyle.

A recent spike in a potentially life-threatening disease has caused worried Canadians to head online in search of answers. Web searches for the symptoms of invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) increased by more than 5,000 per cent this week.

The uptick in online activity comes less than a week after Toronto Public Health reported there have been 13 cases of IMD in the city this year, two of which were fatal. According to a press release, the number to date is the highest total number of cases since 2002.

Earlier this year, Manitoba Health and health officials from Kingston, Ont. Both reported increases in cases of IMD.

Invasive meningococcal disease is a serious infection caused by bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis. While the bacteria can exist in the back of your throat or nose without causing harm or symptoms, it can can invade other areas of the body and cause meningitis or bloodstream infections.

Fatigue and upset woman touching nose bridge feeling eye strain or headache, trying to relieve pain. Sick and exhausted female spending day at home. Depressed lady feeling weary dizzy
What are the signs of IMD? (Image via Getty Images)

Symptoms of IMD include:

  • Fever

  • Vomiting

  • Severe body aches, muscle and joint pain

  • Diarrhea

  • Fatigue

  • Dark purplish rash (for late stage infection)

In a previous interview with Yahoo Canada, Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist, said IMD is a “preventable illness” hanks to meningococcus vaccines being a part of routine vaccination programs in Canada. Speak to your health care provider to see if you are up to date on your vaccines or to receive immunization.

A new study on the artificial sweetener xylitol, a natural sugar alcohol found in fruits and vegetables, has prompted a 950 per cent increase in web searches. The study, published in the European Heart Journal, found that people who consume the highest levels of xylitol have an increased risk of experiencing heart attack and stroke.

Lead researcher Dr. Stanley Hazel, a physician scientist for the Cleveland Clinic, said via press release, “This is the second sugar alcohol that we’ve identified that at physiologic ranges, the levels that we’re seeing in the blood, is linked to heightened clotting risk, heightened risk for heart attack, stroke and frankly, death.”

artificial sweetener container on table .
Is artificial sweetener really that bad for your health? (Image via Getty Images)

In 2023, Hazel published a study on erythritol, a sweetener added to low-calorie and zero-calorie foods and drinks, which also increased risk of cardiac events such as heart attack and stroke.

While Hazel said xylitol isn’t as common as other artificial sweeteners, it is used in some sugar-free, low-calorie and keto-friendly foods, as well as oral products like toothpaste and gum.

“One of the things I would like to see happen out of this research is a reappraisal of the regulatory guidelines around artificial sweeteners, or at least a call for more research on this topic so that we can drill down and make sure we’re not inadvertently having people reach for something they think is a healthy choice, and it not be a healthy choice,” Hazel said.

Researchers suggest opting for eating whole foods or choosing (in moderation) foods sweetened with sugar or honey as a healthy alternative.

Green ripening soybean field, agricultural landscape
Is it possible to eat in a way that's good for you and the planet? (Image via Getty Images)

Could changing your diet to one that has a low-carbon footprint improve your health and be good for the planet? A study led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that people who followed what’s called the Planetary Health Diet had a 30 per cent lower chance of premature death compared to those who didn’t. According to the study, the diet is associated with lower risks for cancer, heart disease and lung disease.

The findings prompted a 5,000 per cent increase in web searches for the diet — but what is it?

The food plan was created in 2019 by the EAT-Lancet Commision, which created a sustainable food model for 10 billion people by 2050.

The Planetary Health Diet consists of mainly fruits, nuts, vegetables and whole grains. moderate meat and dairy intake and as few processed foods as possible. The diet contains foods that are produced with less greenhouse gas emissions, reduced cropland, fertilizer and water use.

Let us know what you think by commenting below and tweeting @YahooStyleCA! Follow us on Twitter and Instagram.