More than 1 in 4 meningitic infections in Canada were spread by contaminated beverages last year, according to a study released Wednesday by the Public Health Agency of Canada.
The study was published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.
It found that among meningitis diagnosed between January and March, the number of cases of bacterial meningovirus, or CMV, among men increased from 7,828 to 11,069, or by about one-fifth.
CMV is an infection that can be passed from person to person through contaminated surfaces.
There were 5,829 cases of CMV among men in Canada, up from 4,821 in 2015.
There were an additional 1,879 cases of invasive CMV (i.e., CMV from an intravenous source) reported between January 1 and March 31, 2017.CMV was detected in a third of the men tested in 2015, but the study found that the rate of CMVs in 2015 was lower than in previous years.
This is due to more testing done in 2016 and 2017.
The number of men in the study with CMV rose to 8,819 in 2016, from 6,621 in 2016.
In 2017, the rate rose to 14,816 from 7.5 per cent.
While the study noted that most of the increase in cases was from men who were in hospital or nursing homes, it said it was also a contributing factor in the increase.
“The increase in CMV cases in the population is primarily due to increased hospitalisation, nursing home care, and home visits, all of which have a greater risk of transmission of CMv to those at greater risk,” the report said.
“Our findings suggest that the increase may be attributable to changes in the way in which health care facilities are staffed.”
While the number and incidence of CM infections are often closely tied to the number, type and duration of hospitalisation and nursing home visits in an area, the report also noted that the CMV-infected population has grown since the late 1980s.
“There is a significant need for new, more comprehensive information on CMV infection and its spread in the general population, and for interventions to prevent transmission,” the researchers wrote.
“We recommend the following strategies for reducing the risk of CM V infection:Strengthen monitoring and surveillance to ensure that those with CM V are being cared for in a safe setting, and provide support for those who do not receive it and need support.”
The report also recommended that men in nursing homes be screened for CMV and treated for CM V.
The Canadian Medical Association called on the government to follow the recommendations of the report and to provide the health minister with more information.
“Health care workers need to be trained to detect and isolate CMV in the community, to screen for CMVI in the communities they work in, and to treat CMV infections in nursing home settings where they work,” the association said in a statement.
“Providing a screening tool that detects CMV at an early stage is a first step, but it is not sufficient.”
The Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA) said the government’s data is incomplete.
“While the numbers reported by the PCHA are not indicative of the prevalence of CMVI among Canadian men, we do know that the overall rate of hospitalization and other hospital-acquired infections is higher in men who have been exposed to CMV than in those who have not,” it said.
The association said CMV outbreaks are also increasing in the United States and Europe, where it said there is a need for additional information.