Interior Health communications administrator Deborah Preston, left, and medical health officer Dr. Karin Goodison update media on declaring an outbreak of meningococcal disease in the Okanagan. (Carmen Weld/Black Press)

Meningococcal disease outbreak declared in Okanagan

Five cases in last six months among 15- to 19-year-olds, including one in Vernon

  • Dec. 14, 2017 3:55 p.m.

Interior Health has declared an outbreak of meningococcal disease in the Okanagan.

The health authority made the decision after having seen an increasing number of cases of the disease in the 15-to-19-year-old age group in the last six months, including the very recent case of a Grade 11 student in Vernon, who remains in hospital in Vancouver in a medically induced coma.

Interior Health is offering immunization clinics throughout the Okanagan for kids in Grades 9-12 and anyone aged 15-19 who does not attend school.

“The risk to the general population is low,” said Dr. Karin Goodison, medical health officer, on Thursday. “However, with the increase in the number of cases and the fact that this disease can be prevented through immunization, we felt it important to raise the public’s awareness about this disease, and roll out a campaign to immunize those at the highest risk.

“We are encouraging all people in this age group who live in the Okanagan to get immunized.”

Five cases have been reported in the last six months: the one in Vernon, one in the Central Okanagan and three in the South Okanagan.

Meningococcal disease is a bacterial infection that occurs rarely in Canada and that is spread by coughing, sneezing, or close face-to-face contact. It can also spread through saliva.

“The best way to prevent meningococcal disease is to not, what I call, ‘swap spit,’” said Goodison. “Don’t share glasses, don’t share cigarettes, don’t share your saliva with other people. What happens is the bacteria is transmitted from the nose and mouth of the one carrying the bacteria to other people’s nose and mouth when they have full contact.”

Immunizations started Thursday at a school in Vernon, and clinics will continue to roll out at Okanagan schools next week to ensure immunization before winter holidays.

Interior Health will also be offering immunization at public health centres for people who are not attending school or who have missed their school immunization clinic.

The Meningococcal Quadrivalent vaccine has been part of the routine immunization schedule for B.C. students in Grade 9 since 2016.

This year, Interior Health has identified 11 cases of meningococcal disease, with most of them in the Okanagan.

Goodison said one person in the 15-to-19 age group in the Okanagan tested positive for meningitis and died, but the cause of the person’s death was unclear.

The health authority would not release details on the person who died, or give an update on the high school student, citing privacy rules.

Typically, the health authority will see less than five cases per year.

Just Posted

VIDEO: Black horse signals ‘sign of peace’ for Tsilhqot’in Nation

Justin Trudeau rides black horse provided by Cooper family

Trudeau exonerates hanged war chiefs of 1864 on B.C. Tsilhqot’in title lands

Prime minister rides horseback with Chief Joe Alphonse, TNG Chairman, to Xeni Gwet’in meeting place

B.C. Legions in need of young members to continue aiding veterans into the future

Lest we forget what thousands of men and women did to fight for Canada’s freedoms – but without new membership, many Legion chapters face dwindling numbers

Rain, snowfall warnings in effect across B.C.

B.C.’s Interior set to get hit with snow while the Lower Mainland is expected to see more rain

Turn your clocks back: Daylight Saving time ends Sunday

Don’t forget to turn back your clock, change your batteries

VIDEO: Amazon to split second HQ between New York, Virginia

Official decision expected later Tuesday to end competition between North American cities to win bid and its promise of 50,000 jobs

‘Targeted incident’ leads to death of Quesnel man

One man died of life-threatening injuries on Nov. 8

Disabled boy has ‘forgiven’ bullies who walked on him in stream, mom says

A Cape Breton teen who has cerebral palsy was told to lie in a stream as other kids walked over him

Letters shed light on state of mind of B.C. mom accused of daughter’s murder

Trial of South Surrey mother Lisa Batstone begins in BC Supreme Court

Vancouver man must pay $22,000 after breaking strata rules

Peter Gordon took his fight over his rented condo to the civil resolution tribunal, but lost

B.C. cheese linked to 5 E. coli cases

People are asked to throw out or return ‘Qualicum Spice’ cheese

Canada Post no longer guarantees delivery times amid more rotating strikes

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers closed two major processing centres in Ontario and B.C.

B.C. city councillor resigns as AutismBC director amid SOGI controversy

AutismBC president Gary Robins says Laurie Guerra’s resignation is effective Nov. 12

McGill students vote overwhelmingly to change Redmen team nickname

Student union held a referendum after a campaign by Indigenous students

Most Read