Outbreak declared at Dalhousie University after student dies from meningococcal disease

Outbreak declared at Dalhousie University after student dies from meningococcal disease

A student at Dalhousie University in Halifax has died of meningococcal disease.

Nova Scotia Public Health confirmed the death on Friday, adding that another student is recovering in hospital.

According to Public Health, both students contracted the same serogroup B strain of bacteria and lived in the same Shirreff Hall residence.

No further details about the students were released.

“Currently, there is no indication of an increased risk to the general public or the Dalhousie University community,” said Dr. Cristin Muecke, Regional Medical Officer of Health, in a press release.

“This form of bacterial meningitis is not spread through the air or through casual contact, e.g. like sitting next to or talking to someone who has the disease.”

Health officials say there is currently no known link between the cases, other than that both students lived in the same apartment, although the spread is still being investigated.

Public Health officials have already identified and have been in contact with individuals who may have been directly exposed to the infected students.

“Under public health guidelines, two cases of meningococcal disease with the same serogroup in one location over a short period of time are considered an institutional outbreak,” Nova Scotia Health said in the news release.

“In response, Public Health will be holding vaccination clinics for Shirreff Hall’s students and staff this weekend.”

Public Health’s announcement comes a day after parents in Westville were informed that an elementary school student had received a confirmed diagnosis of “invasive” meningococcal disease.

The letter to families noted that public health is not currently recommending students from the Walter Duggan Consolidated School.

Public Health said all of the student’s close contacts have been notified, adding that parents, teachers and school administrators will be notified.

Parents are urged to monitor their children for symptoms by midnight on December 19.

The bacteria in meningococcal disease are spread through direct secretions such as saliva or spit, and through the nose and mouth during activities such as kissing and sharing food, drink, cutlery, and cigarettes.

Public Health warns that there is no vaccine that protects against all strains of meningococcal disease. The province’s publicly funded immunization program currently offers a meningococcal C vaccine at 12 months of age and a meningococcal quadrivalent A, C, Y, W vaccine as part of the 7th grade school immunization program.

“Currently, the meningococcal B vaccine is not part of Nova Scotia’s routine publicly funded immunization program, but is available to individuals who are determined to have close contact with a case of meningococcal or are at higher risk of meningococcal disease have,” Nova Scotia Health said.

Symptoms of meningococcal disease can include:

  • worsening of fever
  • headache
  • stiff neck
  • rash
  • sensitivity to light
  • Changes in attention level

Public Health recommends people see a doctor immediately for more severe symptoms.

In an email to students and faculty, Dalhousie University vice provost student affairs Rick Ezekiel called the outbreak a “very sad event” and offered his condolences to the family of the deceased student.

“We recognize the fear and uncertainty that this type of news brings to our community,” Ezekiel said in the letter. “This is an extremely difficult time for our students who live at Shirreff Hall, our community that supports our students and the families and friends of the students affected.”

The outbreak on the Dalhousie University campus also came a month after a student at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax died of meningitis.

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