Meningitis ails McMaster student
By Caroline Greene
Meningitis is back and it's on the attack at Mac.
A female student at McMaster University, living in residence at Brandon Hall, went to the hospital Monday night and was diagnosed with a case of bacterial meningitis. She was admitted to the hospital and placed on intravenous and antibiotics.
This person was quite sick but is recovering well, said Andrew Hodge, acting associate medical officer in the Hamilton-Wentworth public health department. He would not release the name, citing confidentiality reasons.
Those who were in close contact with the individual who contracted the infection have been administered Rifampin, which they will be given over a 48-hour period, Hodge explained. Normally the Hamilton-Wentworth area will encounter between four and six cases of meningitis a year, he added.
"There is still only the one case," said Andrea Farquhar, assistant director of media and community relations at McMaster. She said people are not scared but interested and are being provided with information quickly.
Hodge said the one concern with a case appearing in a residence environment is the number of people in close contact. He added the proper contact tracing has been performed for students in the residence and on campus.
Tom Macfarlane, director of student and staff/faculty health services at Western, said there was a case of meningitis several years ago in a residence at Western and Rifampin was also used to treat individuals who came in contact with the infected student.
A fact sheet released by McMaster said meningococcal meningitis and meningococcemia are two rare, but serious, infections caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis. The bacteria, which is found only in saliva and mucus, enters the body through the nose and throat and may cause an infection of the bloodstream or lining of the brain spinal cord.
It is spread by sharing saliva from an infected person through direct contact such as kissing or sharing eating utensils, lipstick, cigarettes or drinks. Symptoms include fever, feeling unwell, headaches, vomiting, stiff neck and sometimes a skin rash. "The important thing is to prevent close contact," Hodge said.
The disease is based on a relationship between the body's immune system and the bug itself, Macfarlane said. A significant number of people routinely have this bacteria present in their throat without becoming ill.
If exposed, there is a potential to get the disease. It is easy to kill once diagnosed, he added.
Mario Puma, a first-year humanities student and resident of Brandon Hall, described the mood of the residence as calm, although there are a lot of people who are still worried. "Not everyone is running around panicking," he said.
He added students have been taking precautions if they show any symptoms. So far Puma said he has been happy with the support from Brandon Hall and the wide coverage of the case to keep students informed.