Volume 94, Issue 84

Thursday, March 1, 2001


No re-vote in store for Huron top spot

Hopeful disqualified over posters

London public school gets health scare

Investigated U of T law prof's peers defend academic freedom

Study says movie star smokers make teenagers more likely to light up too


Planet Me

London public school gets health scare

By Carrie Gennoe
Gazette Staff

Children at Ryerson Public School in London are being closely monitored after a seven-year-old male student was diagnosed with a blood disease known as meningococcal.

Dr. Graham Pollett, chief medical officer of health at the Middlesex-London Health Unit, said the young boy was admitted to the Children's Hospital of Western Ontario on Monday.

The boy has one of two forms of the disease, he noted. "In people that develop the serious form of meningococcal, the disease can attack the lining of the brain and spinal cord, or it can take the form of blood poisoning, known as meningococcemia, which is the disease the boy has," he said, adding the boy is still in intensive care.

Ryerson principal, Jeanette Johnston, said the school has taken action to inform parents about the disease.

"As soon as we became aware of the boy's illness, we prepared a letter to send home with all the students describing the recent event," she explained. "Attached to the letter were pages from the Health Unit with information about the disease."

Pollett said the disease is spread through the passing of saliva and attention has been focused on students whom have had close contact with the boy.

"We are contacting the parents of the children who had close exposure. He was on a hockey team and we are recommending that any of the kids who shared water bottles should see a physician and be put on antibiotic treatment," Pollett said.

People can carry the disease in their nose or mouth and not realize they are acting as a carrier, he said. "Some of the symptoms include fever, headaches, irritability, photo phobia [the inability to stand bright lights], vomitting and confusion," he explained. "Some people can also develop a rash."

Pollett said a vaccination is available, but noted it's only administered in outbreak situations and not routinely given to children or adults.

Meningococcal disease occurs sporadically all year round, according to Sara Galsworthy, an associate professor of microbiology and immunology at Western.

Galsworthy said stress and overcrowding can lead to an increase in the disease. "In recent years, in Southwestern Ontario, there's been an outbreak in high school and early university students," she said.

Pollett said the London area only receives two to four cases of meningococcal disease per year, but cited certain university settings which were ideal grounds for the disease to spread. "People who live in dormitories and residences can easily transmit the disease. Because of the degree of close contact, the risk of infection is high."

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