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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Gold River organizes a shop local initiative to creatively boost economy

Local purchases can earn shoppers $200 gift certificates to be spent on businesses within Gold River

No ferry between Quadra and Campbell River June 2

Powell River Queen suffering mechanical problems; water taxi will transport passengers

Vancouver Island grizzlies: moving in, or just passing through?

Lack of data makes seeming increase in grizzly sightings on the North Island an open question

SD72 drops some bus routes, adds others

Changes due to physical distancing requirements

North Island College students printing safety gear

Industrial automation students use program smarts to help others

VIDEO: A Vancouver Island black bear takes weekend nap in eagle tree

Videos captured by Terry Eissfeldt shows the bear arriving Saturday night and sleeping in on Sunday

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Mirror business directory and map

If you’d like to be added to the list, shoot us an email

Trudeau avoids questions about anti-racism protesters dispersed for Trump photo-op

Prime minister says racism is an issue Canadians must tackle at home, too

Considerations made to keep Island community’s drive-by birthday celebrations going

Trucks will tone it down or not use horns at all to bring some joy to kids and older folks

Summer tubing ban on Cowichan River lifted

The Tube Shack opening on June 27

NDP getting COVID-19 wage subsidy ‘indirectly,’ B.C. Liberal leader says

B.C. NDP says Andrew Wilkinson is wrong about federal link

Most Read