Nova Scotia

Acadia University dealing with 'institutional outbreak' of meningitis

An Acadia University student hospitalized with meningococcal meningitis is suffering from the B strain — the same strain that killed another Acadia student earlier this month — according to Nova Scotia's chief public health officer.

Public Health will offer free meningococcal B vaccine to all Acadia students

An Acadia University student hospitalized with meningococcal meningitis is suffering from the B strain — the same strain that killed another Acadia student earlier this month — according to Nova Scotia's chief public health officer.

"Two cases of the same strain of meningococcal meningitis in one location, such as a university campus, constitutes an institutional outbreak," said Dr. Robert Strang.

Hope Maryka was diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis on Tuesday. A national lab confirmed the strain late Thursday night.

Free vaccine

Public Health will offer a free meningococcal B vaccine for all students, as well as faculty and staff with certain rare health conditions, during immunization clinics planned over the next two weeks. 

They've ordered enough doses to vaccinated about 4,000 people at a cost of approximately $650,000.

Clinics have been scheduled in the Fountain Commons on:

  • Wednesday, Feb. 18 from 12 p.m. - 4 p.m.
  • Thursday, Feb. 19 from 12 p.m. - 4 p.m.
  • Monday, Feb. 23 from 12 p.m. - 8 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Feb. 24 from 12 p.m. - 8 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Feb. 25 from 12 p.m. - 8 p.m.

Strang said another round of clinics will take place before the end of the term for the second dose of the vaccine.

"Still, the risk remains low because this disease is not spread as easily as the cold or flu. Basic precautions and the vaccination program within the student population are the best measures to keep everyone healthy," he said.

"It's perfectly safe for them to travel next week and we're encouraging them to wait and get vaccinated when they come back."

The doctor said no other students have been diagnosed. Maryka played sports with Sarah Hastings, the Acadia University student who died, Strang said. 

He is not pushing for a province-wide vaccination against strain B and national guidelines don't recommend that the vaccine be widely distributed. It's available at pharmacies.

4 cases of meningitis in 2015

Public Health said there is no need to cancel classes, cancel reading week plans or limit the movement of Acadia students and staff.

Students on campus Friday expressed concern about the outbreak. 

"You don't hear about it often and all of a sudden a couple of cases spring up, then a couple more case spring up across the province," said Ryan Balcom.

Taylor Russell praised the university's handling of the incident. 

"The school has been good about updating us. They've made some changes about how they wash things at meal hall and stuff for people who go there. The vaccination is coming, so that's the best we can ask for," Russell said. 

According to the university's website, Maryka is a first-year business administration student — the same year and program as Hastings, who died Feb. 1 after contracting meningitis.

Rylee Sears, a Grade 10 student from Lower Sackville, died one week before Hastings. Sears had contracted a different strain of meningitis — the Y strain — which will be covered in Nova Scotia's new vaccination formula being rolled out this fall.

CBC News has learned a first-year male student at St. Francis Xavier University student contracted the B strain in November and the Y strain in January. He was hospitalized both times.

The sick student lived in residence. He's now sitting out the semester with his family in Ontario.

Strang said the last meningitis outbreak was in the early 1990s.

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