MENINGITIS

The male St. Francis Xavier University student who had meningitis lived on campus, and was treated in hospital in Antigonish. (Harrison McClary/Reuters)

Nova Scotia's first meningitis case of the year wasn't revealed at the time: a first-year student at St. Francis Xavier University who became ill in January and has since returned to Ontario to recover.

The student was infected with the Y strain of meningococcal bacteria, the same strain that killed 16-year-old Rylee Sears of Lower Sackville, said chief public health officer Dr. Robert Strang in a news conference Wednesday.

Strang held the event to provide information about the province's fourth case of meningitis in the past six weeks — two of which resulted in deaths.

Nova Scotia generally sees four or fewer cases of meningitis in a year, and no one has died of the disease for a decade until 2015.

The male St. Francis Xavier student who became infected lived on campus and he was treated in hospital in Antigonish, said university spokeswoman Cindy MacKenzie.

When he was released, he went home to his family in Ontario where he is still recovering, she said. He plans to return to school in September.

"The people the student was in contact with, they were tested and no one was found to have meningitis other than this particular student and there's been no other incidents reported," said MacKenzie.

The university did not have information on whether the student suffered a long-term disability from the illness. He did not appear to play on any university sports teams, according to MacKenzie.

Long-term side effects

Bacterial meningitis infections cause death in about five to 10 per cent of cases, even with treatment, and can cause brain damage, hearing loss or other long-term disabilities in up to one-fifth of survivors, according to the World Health Organization.

"I guess in incidents like this, we take our lead from public health," she said Wednesday.

"At this point we have not established a vaccination program or anything like that since it's supposed to be an isolated incident."

After Sears's death, 18-year-old Sarah Hastings — a first-year student at Acadia University — was infected with a different strain of bacteria and died last week.

The most recent student to fall ill is also a female Acadia student, but the province hasn't yet determined what strain of the bacteria infected her. If it turns out to be the B strain — the type that infected Hastings — public health officials will consider it an outbreak at Acadia and will vaccinate all of the school's students.