The Montreal Public Health Department is asking doctors to be vigilant after an 18-year-old student at Marianopolis College died of a bacterial meningococcal in the bloodstream infection past weekend.

She attended classes throughout the day on Friday and went out in the evening to celebrate her 18th birthday.

“We were with her all day. She really wasn’t feeling well. She was complaining about a cold she had developed a week before, but we didn’t think it was anything serious,” said her friend, Victoria-Angel Tiano, who said her friend didn't drink much alcohol that evening because of her illness. “She really wanted to celebrate and enjoy her time at her party and deal with her illness over the weekend, because she thought it was a cold.

When she got home, she was not feeling well, and her health rapidly declined overnight.

She died Saturday afternoon from the infection.

Tiano says she feels "terrible" about her friend's death. "This weekend has been crazy. It doesn’t feel real at all.”

Public health officials immediately began tracking down the people who were in close contact with her in the days before her death because they are at risk of coming down with serious health complications.

"It's very rare that it would lead to a death before it would get diagnosed and treated," said Dr. Lavanya Narasiah of Montreal Public Health.

Several of the teenager's close acquaintances began treatment on Sunday, which will include antibiotics.

Public health officials are also recommending close contacts of the young woman be vaccinated against several strains of meningococcal bacteria.

People considered close contacts are:

  • People living under the same roof
  • People who have had intimate contact with the person concerned
  • People who have been in direct contact with the respiratory secretions of the person concerned (kissing).

It is important to know that a hug, or sharing a drink or bottle with the infected person is not considered close contact, Montreal Public Health says.

Since 2013, there have been 40 cases of this type of infection in Montreal, including three deaths.

“(If you have) flu-like symptoms, like muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, severe headache or developing a special type of rash or something unusual, to go to the emergency and get yourself evaluated,” said Narasiah, who added that the best way to protest against infection like meningitis is to ensure vaccinations are up to date.

Anyone with concerns is urged to call Info Santé at 8-1-1.