Lower Sackville student dies after meningococcal meningitis diagnosis

HALIFAX – A high school student from Lower Sackville diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis last week has died.

Sackville High School confirmed in a news release on its website Monday morning that a Grade 10 student had died due to a serious illness.

Friends of the student have identified him as Rylee Sears in interviews and condolence messages on social media.

Capital Health confirmed a case of meningococcal meningitis last week and said it had called people who could have been in contact with the infected person, whom it did not identify, at a party the previous weekend. A letter was also sent home to parents of Sackville High students.

The health authority has informed people who were potentially at risk to watch for symptoms until Jan. 27. It has also advised that although the illness is contagious, it can only be spread through direct contact with nasal or mouth fluids. Symptoms of meningitis present between two to 10 days after exposure, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

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“This type of meningococcal disease — in Nova Scotia, we see anywhere from no cases a year up to two to three cases a year for the entire province,” said Dr. Robin Taylor, the medical officer of health for Capital Health.

“So that gives you an idea of how rare it is.”

Taylor also says the risk to the public is low in this particular case. So far, they have interviewed more than 130 people who were in contact with Sears and have given some of them antibiotics.

“We know who has been exposed and we’re in contact with them and making sure they get antibiotics so we can break the train of transmission,” she said.

“So from this particular case, the risk to the wider community is no more than it would have been three weeks ago or is in the next couple of months.”

The flag at Sackville High flew at half-mast on Monday morning, as students trickled in and out of the school during exams.

Friends and classmates say the news of Sears’ death has hit them hard.

“As soon as I found out, I just started bawling my eyes out because I can just imagine his girlfriend too — she’s hurt too,” said fellow Grade 10 student Kaitlyn Rhyno.

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Many spoke of Sears’ love of hockey and dedication to sports.

“[He was a] great guy. He was great at sports, athletics [and had] great qualities,” said Grade 10 student Kane Rick.

Sackville High is providing counselling services for students at the school and offering students the option of postponing exams, which began on Monday.

The Halifax Regional School Board posted a short video to YouTube in which it acknowledges the death of a student and urges people who might have been in contact with that student to alert Capital Health.

“We’re very saddened to hear about the passing of this student. Our condolences are with the family as well as the students and staff at Sackville High as they deal with this very difficult and unspeakable tragedy,” HRSB spokesman Doug Hadley told Global News.

With Global News files

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