Province hushes concerns on meningitis after hockey player case

March 6, 2014 - 5:52pm
Dr. Saqib Shahab, chief medical health officer of Saskatchewan file photo. Aaron Stuckel/CJME
Dr. Saqib Shahab, chief medical health officer of Saskatchewan file photo. Aaron Stuckel/CJME

People in Saskatchewan should not panic according to the chief medical health officer.

Dr. Saqib Shahab eased concerns about the spread of meningitis on Thursday after Tim Bozon—a star player for the Kootenay Ice in the Western Hockey League—was diagnosed with the illness following a game against the Saskatoon Blades on Friday.

Bozon was joined by his family from Switzerland on Sunday after doctors put him in critical care. Meanwhile, health officials have been working to make sure anyone who came into contact with the bacteria receives appropriate treatment.

But Shahab said the likelihood of the illness spreading to the general public is very low.

“At this point, there is nothing to suggest that there is any increased risk for the general public,” he said, adding that 95 per cent of people over five years of age in Saskatchewan have been vaccinated.

According to Shahab, Saskatchewan sees between two and 10 cases of meningitis a year and it’s become a lot less common that those cases are connected. He said a strong immunization program has helped those numbers compounded with the fact that it’s tough to actually transfer the disease.

“The risk really is from direct transmission of saliva,” said Shahab. “Being in the same room or shaking someone’s hand or sitting next to someone does not result in increased risk.”

While that’s good news for the general public, it is likely of concern to the Kootenay Ice. Sharing water bottles would be included as a method for the illness to spread. But Shahab said those who have come into contact with meningitis can usually be treated with a single dose of antibiotics.

Shahab said meningitis presents itself firstly in the form of fever and a general feeling of sickness, but it can progress rapidly into vomiting, drowsiness and even unconsciousness. He said anyone experiencing those symptoms should seek medical attention even though those symptoms could be caused by other illnesses.