Acadia University meningitis death has no known link to Rylee Sears
'It is a very sad day for all of us here at Acadia,' says spokesman Scott Roberts
Public health authorities in Nova Scotia say there's no known link between the Acadia University student and the Lower Sackville teenager who died of meningitis a week apart.
Officials haven't yet identified which bacterial strain infected the female Acadia student or whether it was the same strain that killed 16-year-old Rylee Sears last Monday.
The two lived in separate communities and socialized in different age groups, said Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief public health officer. He stressed there's no increased risk to any member of the public who had no close contact with either student.
"We do not have an outbreak," he told reporters on Monday.
The Acadia University student's roommate found her unresponsive in her dorm room on Saturday, said Strang. The student, who is originally from outside the province, died on Sunday.
Before the two recent deaths, it had been a decade since Nova Scotia saw another death from meningitis, said Strang. The province sees from zero to four cases of the illness per year.
He said he didn't know if the Acadia student had been vaccinated against meningitis.
Before her death she had taken antibiotics, he said, so health authorities will need to run different tests, taking that into account as they try to identify the strain.
However, they are assuming she died of bacterial or meningoccocal meningitis and are offering preventive treatments to people close to her.
Strang said the student's family and about six students have been identified as "close contacts" — or people at higher risk of contracting the illness.
After Sears's diagnosis, about 130 people who had close contact with the Grade 10 student were screened and some were given antibiotics and a vaccine pre-emptively.
'A very sad day for all of us'
Acadia University president Ray Ivany said the school brought in grief counsellors on Monday for students mourning the loss of their classmate.
The school isn't identifying the young woman who died as per her family's wishes. Fellow students wrote on social media that she was funny and sociable, with a lot of school pride. They planned to wear Acadia colours, red and blue, in her honour this week.
Public health authorities notified the university of the suspected illness on Saturday, said university spokesman Scott Roberts.
"It is a very sad day for all of us here at Acadia," he said Sunday.
Early meningitis symptoms include a fever, nausea and headache. Later symptoms include a stiff neck, skin rash and sensitivity to light. The infection, which is spread through direct contact with saliva and mucus, can become dangerous quickly.
Routine vaccines protect against many strains of the infection, but Nova Scotia is among several provinces that offer a limited meningitis vaccine instead of one that includes several different bacterial strains.
The limited vaccine doesn't include the Y strain of meningoccocal bacteria that killed Sears, but a vaccine including that strain is available and will be offered in Nova Scotia starting this fall.
The province announced last week that all Nova Scotians can request that vaccine, right now, from their family doctors. It will be available for purchase at pharmacies.