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)

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

Brian McFadden, vice-president of the Vancouver Island Military Museum, shows elements of a new exhibit there that examines some of the horrors and hardships for women and children in prison camps during First and Second World Wars. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Women in prison camps persevered

Letter writer shares her mother’s recollections of prison camp in Java during Second World War

A light display on Northumberland Avenue was recognized as one of the best in the city last year. (Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce photo)
Nanaimo’s Christmas light-up event renamed Illuminight

Judging will take place the evening of Dec. 13

News Bulletin file photo
Salvation Army asks for volunteers to help serve up Christmas dinners

Charity looking for help with preparing, packaging, serving and delivering meals

Potential locations of speed humps and curbs on Lost Lake Road. (City of Nanaimo image)
City of Nanaimo planning traffic-calming project on Lost Lake Road

Seventy-five per cent of respondents support measures to reduce speed on the road

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ board is set to vote on a recommendation that would see Franklyn Street gym demolition. Pictured here, Nanaimo Fire Rescue staff on scene after a gym fire in October 2018. (News Bulletin file)
Nanaimo-Ladysmith school trustees to decide Franklyn Street gym’s fate

SD68 committee recommends demolishing gym, damaged by fire in October 2018

Kyle Charles poses for a photo in Edmonton on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. Marvel Entertainment, the biggest comic book publisher in the world, hired the 34-year-old First Nations illustrator as one of the artists involved in Marvel Voice: Indigenous Voices #1 in August. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
VIDEO: Indigenous illustrator of new Marvel comic hopes Aboriginal women feel inspired

Kyle Charles says Indigenous women around the world have reached out

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Long-awaited federal rent subsidy program for businesses hurt by COVID-19 opens today

The new program will cover up to 65 per cent of rent or commercial mortgage interest

A map of Nanaimo displays the boundaries of the proposed new downtown business improvement area. (City of Nanaimo image)
Nanaimo city councillors recommending downtown improvement area be re-established

Finance and audit committee recommends council direct staff to start ‘petition-against’ process

An Oceana Canada audit of Canadian fish stocks reveals a growing number with critical populations, calling on Fisheries and Oceans Canada to enact existing commitments. (File photo)
B.C.’s declining fisheries the result of poor DFO management: audit

Oceana Canada calls for follow through on government commitments

Nanaimo Fire Rescue Chief Karen Fry will become the next fire chief of Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services in the new year. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo’s fire chief hired to become Vancouver’s fire chief

Karen Fry calls the move a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity

James Corden on the Late Late Show talking about BC Ferries on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020. (Screenshot)
‘You’ll see it when you see it’: BC Ferries mask graphic gains James Corden’s attention

Turns out, James Corden fans were just as quick as B.C. social media users to pick up on the dual imagery

Most Read