The death of an 18-year-old Montreal CEGEP student has shed light on the risks of contracting meningitis and bacterial meningococcal infections.

She died on Saturday after contracting a bacterial meningococcal infection in the bloodstream.

There is a difference between a meningococcal infection and meningitis. 

During an infection, the bacteria spread into the bloodstream, whereas meningitis is when the bacteria spread to the brain. 

There are two vaccines to prevent the spread of the bacteria. 

“The problem is that we don’t know how long the immunity lasts after the vaccine,” said Dr. Earl Rubin, an infectious disease specialist at the MUHC. “Doing it at age four or five without being in a high-risk situation, I don’t know if you’ll still be protected during the time of higher risk.”

He said that lifestyle changes like living in university residence increase the risk of contracting the bacteria, which can be spread in various ways.

“Sharing cigarettes and other things that go in your mouth and sharing secretions, adolescents are at a greater risk because of that,” he said.