The following message was emailed today (Friday, Dec. 16) to all students, faculty and staff.
To: The Dalhousie University community
From: Rick Ezekiel, Vice-Provost, Student Affairs
Dr. Cristin Muecke, Regional Medical Officer of Health
Date: Friday, December 16, 2022
Re: Public Health investigating two cases of meningococcal disease at Dalhousie University, death of one student
Today Nova Scotia Public Health will share information about its investigation into two cases of meningococcal disease in Dal’s residence community in Shirreff Hall.
They will also be sharing the very sad news about the sudden death of one of those students. Our thoughts and deepest condolences are with their family and friends. That is all the information we are able to share about the student at this time to respect the family’s wishes and timelines for communication.
Although Public Health leads the investigation and response into communicable diseases, we wanted to ensure that our Dalhousie community also heard from both the university and Public Health together on this very sad event. Public Health and Dalhousie University are working closely together to support our community.
Public Health has confirmed that both individuals had the same strain of the meningococcal disease bacteria called serogroup B. At this time, there is no known social/activity connection between the two cases other than living in the same residence, Shirreff Hall, although Public Health also continues to investigate whether there are any further links between these individuals.
Since there are two cases, according to Public Health guidelines, an outbreak is being declared for the Shirreff Hall residence. Only those contacted by Public Health are required to take further action. Public Health will also hold vaccination clinics or help arrange vaccine for those identified as eligible in both cases. Members of our Dalhousie community whose primary place of living and working is Shirreff Hall or have been identified as close contacts have already been contacted by Public Health. You can read the Public Health release here.
We recognize the anxiety and uncertainty this sort of news creates for our community. This an extremely difficult time for our students living in Shirreff Hall, our community who supports our students, and the family and friends of the students impacted.
Dr. Cristin Muecke, Regional Medical Officer of Health, also assures us that at this time there is no indication of increased risk to the general public or the larger Dalhousie University community. This form of bacterial meningitis is not spread through the air or casual contact, such as sitting next to or talking with someone who is sick with the disease.
Meningococcal disease refers to any illness caused by bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis. The bacteria are spread by direct secretions (saliva or spit) from the nose and mouth. Public health is also suggesting that the best way to protect yourself and your community are to be take the following precautions:
- Avoid sharing drinks or utensils;
- Avoid sharing vapes, smokes, water bottles, and other items;
- Avoid sharing bodily fluids;
- Monitor for symptoms outlined here, which may include: fever, headache, change in the level of alertness, stiff neck, a skin rash that spreads rapidly and begins as reddish/purplish spots that do not disappear when pressed, nausea and vomiting.
- Seek immediate medical care should you experience new or emerging symptoms.
We also recognize that this may be distressing news for many members of our community, in grieving the loss of a friend, and also experiencing concern for their own health and well-being.
Students can access support through Dalhousie’s Student Health and Wellness for both quality primary and mental health-care services. There are 24/7 Wellness Supports available online through Good 2 Talk. We are currently in the exam timeframe and Academic Advising can offer support if for students experiencing academic impacts or requiring flexibility. We also continue to offer drop-in support in Shirreff Hall, communicated directly to students living in the residence.
Faculty and staff supports are available through our Employee and Family Assistance Program, which can be accessed at workhealthlife.com, or through the enhanced mental health benefit from Blue Cross, or by contacting Accessible Employment at firstname.lastname@example.org for additional support or resources.
The university will continue to assist and support Public Health in any way possible. Please take care of yourselves, take care of each other, and please be sure to reach out to the supports outlined above as we navigate this challenging time together.
Vice-Provost Student Affairs
Cristin Muecke, MD MSc FRCPC
Regional Medical Officer of Health
Nova Scotia Health
Dalhousie University is located in Mi'kma'ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi`kmaq. We are all treaty people.
We recognize that African Nova Scotians are a distinct people whose histories, legacies and contributions have enriched that part of Mi'kma'ki known as Nova Scotia for over 400 years.