April 2, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 97  

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Meningococcal case at Med-Syd residence

By Marshall Bellamy
Gazette Staff

Authorities have responded to a case of meningococcal — a potentially deadly infectious disease similar to meningitis — involving a Western student.

An unnamed student confirmed that one of his floormates at Medway-Syndenham Hall contracted the infection and is receiving treatment, adding health officials entered the residence to treat other potential victims. “They gave a few of us antibiotics,” the student added.

“There’s one case,” said Bryna Warsawsky, associate medical officer with the Middlesex-London Health Unit. “[Procedure is] to follow up the contacts of the person — when saliva is exchanged, that’s our criteria,” she added, noting the antibiotics and vaccine are offered to the contacts whom the health unit tracked down.

“We know none of them are sick,” Warsawsky said of the student’s floormates and other possible contacts.

“They’re not under any obligation [to take the antibiotics],” said Thomas Macfarlane, director of Student Health Services at Western, noting the antibiotic is just one pill. “It’s highly, highly unlikely there’ll be more cases.”

“We’re working with the health unit in providing prophylactics to students who had direct contact,” he said, adding students should not worry about contracting meningococcal unless they have had direct contact through the exchange of saliva.

Emmanuel Chabot, spokesperson for Health Canada, explained that cases of meningococcal are reported at the federal level and are something Health Canada takes seriously, pointing out that in 2000 there were 240 confirmed cases of the infection. “It is a disease that is infectious and can lead to death. It is a concern, but it is treatable.”

Warsawsky stated that on average London experiences one to eight cases of meningococcal a year, and symptoms are generally a sudden fever and headaches, along with nausea and a stiff neck. “Overall, 90 per cent of meningococcal cases will survive,” she added.

The infection could also lead to the infection of the bloodstream or to meningitis, which affects the spinal cord and brain, Warsawsky added.

Macfarlane stressed the fact that further infection of students is unlikely because few would have had contact with the student’s saliva. “If you haven’t had direct contact, don’t worry,” he added.



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