POLITICS

Immunizations could begin at Acadia if meningitis strain same as earlier case

02/12/2015 03:16 EST | Updated 04/14/2015 05:59 EDT
HALIFAX - Nova Scotia's chief public health officer says he expects to know by Friday which strain of bacterial meningitis was contracted by a second student at Acadia University in Wolfville.

If the second case of meningitis is from the same B strain as another case at the school, Dr. Robert Strang said Thursday that immunization clinics would be set up at the university next week even though Acadia students have a week-long study break, meaning many could be away from campus when immunizations begin.

Strang said his office has taken the break into account and would begin by immunizing students who stay on campus. There would not be an increased risk if immunizations take place over multiple weeks, he added.

The young woman, a first-year business student, became ill Monday and was taken to hospital near the school. She was recovering in hospital.

Strang has said all students at the university will be immunized if it is the same B strain that was contracted by another female student who died earlier this month just a day after exhibiting symptoms.

There have been four cases of meningitis in the province this year, including a male student at St. Francis Xavier University who recovered. There were two cases last year, with the last fatality being reported in 2002.

A statement on Acadia's website said the second student had no known contact with the first student who contracted the disease.

Strang has said even with the latest diagnosis, the risk of getting the disease remains low in the general public.

To prevent spreading the disease, he urged people not to share drinks, water bottles, eating utensils, lip balm or toothbrushes. People should also make sure they are washing their hands or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Strang said the situation could become more complicated if the second student has the Y strain of the disease, which was linked to the death of a male high school student in the Halifax area late last month.

He said in that case, officials would need to contact experts and take a provincewide approach to deal with the illness, but didn't offer specifics on what that would entail.

The woman who died was taken to hospital on Jan. 31. She died the following day, despite being given antibiotics.