HALIFAX - Health officials in Nova Scotia are trying to identify the strain of bacterial meningitis contracted by a second student at Acadia University, raising concerns that the school could be dealing with an outbreak of the illness.
Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief medical officer of health, said Wednesday he is awaiting results from a national lab that is testing a sample from the young female student who is recovering in hospital.
The young woman, a first-year business student and member of the school's female rugby team, became ill Monday and was taken to hospital near the school in Wolfville, N.S.
He 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.
"This would then indicate that we do have an outbreak of meningococcal B on Acadia campus," he said. "Two confirmed cases in one population is unusual."
Strang said he expects to get results by Friday. Officials would begin vaccinating students next week if it is the same, increasingly common B strain.
Health officials have contacted the manufacturer of a B strain vaccine to ensure they can secure an adequate supply for the student population, along with faculty and staff with medical conditions.
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, Hope Maryka, lives alone off campus and there was no known contact between her and the first student who contracted the disease.
"I want to let you know that our student who fell ill ... is doing very well," university president Ray Ivany said in the statement.
"I was able to visit Hope in the hospital earlier today to tell her and her mother that the entire Acadia community is sending best wishes for a speedy recovery."
Strang said that even though both women at Acadia University who contracted meningitis were first-year business students and athletes, they were not friends and had no direct contact.
He 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, he said.
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.
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