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Meningococcal B identified as strain that killed Montreal woman

Montreal pediatrician explains rare strain of meningitis
Montreal Public Health has confirmed an 18-year-old woman died from a rare b strain of meningitis bacteria. Dr. John Yaremko, a pediatrician, explains that the strain is the most deadly in people under 20.

Meningococcal B has been identified as the strain that led to the death of an 18-year-old Montreal woman on Saturday.

“Infants under [the age of] five will get it because their immune system is less mature, whereas teenagers and young adults, it’s more lifestyle and it’s definitely transmitted through the air, through the saliva and sharing a bottle, kissing, sharing a cigarette,” Dr. John Yaremko told Global News.

“Then, it’s a matter of luck or bad luck whether you get the disease, and that’s totally unpredictable.”

Montreal Public Health evaluated more than 100 people who it identified as having been in “close contact” with the woman, a Marianopolis student.

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READ MORE: ‘Very, very rare’ tragedy after Montreal woman dies of meningococcal infection

About a dozen of those people were given a preventative antibiotic and will now be given the Bexsero vaccine, which specifically protects against this strain.

“It’s not surprising. It’s devastating in terms of the family and friends,” Yaremko said.

“It’s the kind of thing that we get in Quebec probably in about 70 people per year and mainly in young kids under five, teenagers and young adults. It’s 70 cases too many, as far as I’m concerned.”

Yaremko explains that in Quebec, strain B tends to be most prevalent in young adults and children.

WATCH: Teenager’s death prompts Montreal public health warning

Teenager’s death prompts Montreal public health warning
Teenager’s death prompts Montreal public health warning

“No vaccine is 100 per cent so she may have been vaccinated, but chances are not and part of it is because it’s not part of our universal program,” Yaremko said.

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“It’s not a free vaccine.”

“I feel that public health, physicians and nurses maybe need to be proactive in terms of letting people know that there is a vaccine that can protect against this type of illness.”

Meningococcus bacteria affects a person’s airways, leading to serious diseases, such as meningitis and sepsis.

Symptoms are flu-like, including fever, chills, muscle aches, headache, vomiting and rashes.

READ MORE: Lower Sackville student dies after meningococcal meningitis diagnosis

Anyone who has not been vaccinated against the disease can be referred to Santé Publique for vaccination.

Most occurrences of the meningococcal infection happen in late winter and early spring.

WATCH: Meningococcal immunization clinics

Meningococcal immunization clinics
Meningococcal immunization clinics

People who have concerns about their health or that of a loved one are encouraged to contact Info-Santé at 811.

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READ MORE: IH expands meningococcal vaccination options

The last death attributed to the disease in Montreal was in 2017.