Death sparks infection fears at SAIT; Students warned of *meningitis* risk

The Calgary Herald
Sat 05 May 2007
Page: A1 / FRONT
Section: News
Byline: Michelle Lang and Jamie Komarnicki
Source: Calgary Herald

The father of a SAIT student who died from a probable case of bacterial *meningitis* says health and school officials failed to properly warn other students about the disease, noting the victim was likely infectious during the last week of classes.

Colin Main, a 26-year-old originally from the Vancouver area, died last week at a Strathmore home where he was living. *Meningitis* causes swelling in the lining around the brain and spinal cord.

Calgary Health Region representatives say the chances the student transmitted *meningitis* at school are low, noting the infection is only spread through close contact.

Main's father, however, said he learned of the possible *meningitis* connection from the medical examiner's office on Monday, whereas SAIT students weren't informed until Thursday.

The statement from SAIT said the broadcast technology student may have been infectious between April 16 to 20, the last week of classes.

"I think if some other parent had to suffer through what we suffered, what a horrible, horrible tragedy that would be. It's bad enough it happened to us, can you imagine if someone else got sick because they hadn't done due diligence," said Vic Main.

But CHR and SAIT officials defended their response to the death, saying most students on campus aren't at risk of contracting *meningitis*.

The health authority has been monitoring friends and family who were in close contact with Main and are at higher risk of contracting the disease than the general student population.

"That's exactly what needed to happen and did indeed happen," said Bruce Conway, a spokesman for the CHR.

SAIT representatives said they follow the lead of the CHR in these situations and they sent out an e-mail to students and staff at the technical school on Thursday, shortly after they learned that Main may have died of *meningitis*.

"It's a tragic event and obviously we're all deeply saddened by the news," said Michael Dyer, a SAIT vice president.

"We are working with the Calgary Health Region and following their advice."

In the e-mail sent to students and staff, SAIT officials advised that "the classroom environment (is) one that provides a very low risk for transmission of *meningococcal* disease."

The notice asks students to contact their physician immediately or go to hospital if they experience any symptoms of *meningitis*, including sudden onset of fever, intense headache, stiff neck or nausea.

Main, who was studying broadcast technology at SAIT, started feeling unwell April 23.

The young man later called school officials to tell them he didn't think he could write exams on April 24, the day the medical examiner told the family Main likely died.

He was alone when he died at the Strathmore home where he was living with his uncle, who was out of town that week. A neighbour found him April 27 when she checked the house at the family's request.

"It was the worst day of my whole life," Vic Main said.

He described Colin as a fun-loving, intelligent student, whose first love was cooking before he decided to make the switch to broadcast engineering.

After finishing his first year at SAIT, Colin was looking forward to returning home to B.C. for the summer, Vic Main said.

If *meningitis* is confirmed as the cause of Colin Main's death, it will be the first fatal case of the infection so far this year. CHR has had two confirmed cases of *meningitis* in 2007, although both patients recovered.

There were four cases of *meningitis* in 2006, including one death.

*Meningitis* is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids from the nose and mouth, typically from activities such as kissing or sharing drinks.

CHR has not identified any family member or friend who requires *vaccination* or antibodies because of their contact with Main.

"There's no public health risk that has been identified," said Dr. Brent Friesen, the Medical Officer of Health for CHR.

with files from Deborah Tetley, Calgary Herald

Edition: Early
Story Type: News
Note: Also See: Measles outbreak feared in S. Alberta B1
Length: 654 words
Illustration: Colour Photo: Courtesy, family / Colin Main, 26, died at his
Strathmore home April 24.

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