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

Colwood art exhibit shines spotlight on Galloping Goose trail

Pieces inspired by views along the roughly 60-km trail

After-school activities to help your child grow

West Shore Parks and Recreation offers a number of programs for children of all ages

Registration open for West Shore fall sports programs

Lots of fall sports to get kids involved in

Langford Show and Shine ‘best we’ve ever had,’ say organizers

More than 1,000 people showed up to annual event

Michael Silberbauer named first coach of Pacific FC

The Island’s James Merriman named assistant coach

Oak Bay brothers scoop 10 kg of poop from park paths in 30 mins

Family picks up dog poo to give back, inspire others to be more responsible

Suspect in Spiderman suit steals camera on Vancouver Island

Suspect in red and blue “onesie” caught on surveillance footage breaking into truck in Nanaimo

B.C. team stays alive in Little League World Series after another nail-biter

Surrey-based squad scored a 6-4 win over Mexico reps in Williamsport on Monday

Zeballos wildfire not getting any closer to town – BC Wildfire Service

Authorities optimistic about Zeballos; choppers grounded due to heavy smoke

Kids, seniors at risk as smoke from distant fires hangs over parts of B.C.

B.C. Centre for Disease Control says children’s lungs don’t fully develop until about age 10

B.C. mother charged in 7-year-old daughter’s death appears in court

The 36-year-old mother, of Langley’s Aaliyah Rosa, has been charged with second-degree murder

UPDATE: Saanich Police seek to identify suspect in sexual assault

Assault occurred in broad daylight in tent near Ravine Way

VIDEO: Teen soccer phenomenon Alphonso Davies to visit B.C. kids camp

The 17-year-old Vancouver Whitecap player is one of the youngest players in MLS history

New plan to lift more than two million people past the poverty line

Anti-poverty strategy will aim for 50 per cent cut in low-income rates: source

Most Read