Meningococcal vaccinations for teens continue throughout the Okanagan

OKANAGAN - Immunization of vulnerable teens will continue throughout the Okanagan health service area as the Interior Heatlh Authority maintains efforts to contain an outbreak of meningococcal disease.

Medical health officer Dr. Karin Goodison said in a statement the outbreak that was declared Dec. 14, 2017 has not been declared over and the health authority will continue to offer immunization to anyone aged 15 to 19 who has not already recently received the vaccine.

"Immunization clinics will continue until the outbreak is declared over,” she said. "We are continuing to offer immunization to this age group throughout the Okanagan. We are encouraging those in this age group to get immunized, to ensure they are protected against this disease.”

The health authority declared the outbreak of meningococcal disease when an abnormally high number of cases were confirmed from the Okanagan earlier this fall.

Eleven cases were confirmed before Christmas but over the holidays, a 12th case was confirmed, although it fell outside the Okanagan health service area.

The health authority has also confirmed before Christmas the death of one of the young people who originally contracted the disease although the health authority has not confirmed the cause of death and says there may have been other contributing factors.

The health authority is reporting the immunization of 12,859 teens, 60.5 per cent of the target population.

The meningococcal vaccination has been given to Grade 9 students througthout the province beginning in 2016 and those who have received it do not need to get it again.

Meningococcal bacteria can cause a variety of ailments but the two most common diseases are meningococcal meningitis where the bacteria causes the inflammation of the lining around the brain and spinal cord, and meningococcal septicemia where the bacteria enters the bloodstream. Once a person falls ill, symptoms worsen rapidly and can be fatal.

Those in the target population, the health authority advises, should practice good personal hygiene by not sharing cigarettes, utensils or water bottles, by coughing into elbows or sleeves, and by frequently washing their hands to help reduce the spread of this disease.

For more information on immunization clinics, go here.

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