HALIFAX – Health officials in Nova Scotia said Friday that Acadia University is dealing with an outbreak of meningitis after confirming that a second student contracted the same strain of the disease linked to the death of another young woman at the school.
Dr. Robert Strang, the province’s chief public health officer, said a vaccination program for all students and staff with certain health conditions will begin next Wednesday at the campus in Wolfville, N.S.
“Two cases of the same strain of meningococcal meningitis in one location, such as a university campus, constitutes an institutional outbreak,” Strang said in a statement.
“Still, the risk remains low because this disease is not spread as easily as the cold or flu.”
Hope Maryka, a first-year business student, became ill Monday and was taken to hospital to recover. A statement on the university’s website Friday said her condition was continuing to improve.
“I want to let you know that Hope is continuing to recover and is deeply appreciative of the support she has received from her friends and colleagues at Acadia and beyond,” said university president Ray Ivany.
This latest case followed the death on Feb. 1 of Sarah Hastings, another first-year business student who was also found to have the B strain.
Strang said earlier in the week that the two women were not friends and did not have any known contact with each other.
Health officials have contacted the manufacturer of a B strain vaccine to ensure they can secure an adequate supply for the immunizations.
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.
To prevent spreading the disease, Strang 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.
Health officials also said anyone with severe symptoms, including fever, headache, change in the level of alertness, stiff neck, rash and nausea, should contact them.