Interior Health announced on December 14, 2017 they are offering immunization clinics throughout the Okanagan for individuals in grades 9-12 and persons aged 15-19 years old who do not attend school. At this time, in School District No. 83, the clinics will focus on the south end of the district, on Enderby and Armstrong area youth.
Over the past six months, Interior Health has seen an increasing number of cases of meningococcal disease in this age group, and as a result is declaring an outbreak. In 2017, Interior Health has identified 11 cases of meningococcal disease—a majority of these cases were in the Okanagan. Typically, the health authority will see less than five cases per year.
“The risk to the general population is low,” said Dr. Karin Goodison, Medical Health Officer. “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.”
“Immunization is the best form of defence against this disease,” said Goodison. “We are encouraging all people in this age group who live in the Okanagan, to get immunized.”
The Meningococcal Quadrivalent vaccine has been part of the routine immunization schedule for BC students in grade 9 since 2016. If you have received this vaccine as part of the grade 9 immunization program in 2016/2017, you do not need to be re-immunized. Parents and individuals with questions about their immunization records can call their local health centre.
“As a parent myself, I understand there may be concern and questions,” said Dr. Goodison. “I would encourage parents to visit the Interior Health website to learn more about this disease, signs and symptoms, and to find out when a clinic will be available in their area.” Parents and students may also speak with their health-care provider.
Immunizations started today 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. Please check interiorhealth.ca for more details.
Meningococcal disease is a bacterial infection that occurs rarely in Canada that is spread from person to person by coughing, sneezing, or close face-to-face contact. It can also spread through saliva. This can occur through activities such as kissing or sharing of food, drinks, cigarettes, lipsticks, water bottles, mouth guards used for sports, or mouthpieces of musical instruments.
For more information about the Meningococcal Quadrivalent vaccine, visit HealthLink BC.
To find an immunization clinic near you, visit interiorhealth.ca.
Okanagan meningococcal disease immunization program
Questions and Answers
Q: What is meningococcal disease?
A: Meningococcal disease (also known as Invasive Meningococcal Disease) is a serious illness caused by a type of bacteria called Neisseria meningitides. The risk to the general population is low.
Q: What are the symptoms of meningococcal disease?
A: The symptoms of meningococcal disease can vary depending on the affected body parts. The two common types are meningococcal meningitis and meningococcal septicemia.
- Meningococcal meningitis occurs when bacteria cause inflammation of the protective lining around the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms of meningitis include sudden fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light, and confusion.
- Meningococcal septicemia occurs when bacteria enters the blood. Symptoms of meningococcal septicemia include tiredness, severe aches and pain, vomiting, and skin rash.
- Q: What is the difference between meningococcal disease and meningitis?
- A: Many types of bacteria, viruses, and fungi can cause inflammation of the protective lining around the brain and spinal cord that is known as meningitis. Neisseria meningitides is among the bacteria that can cause meningitis that is often very severe.
- Q: When is an outbreak declared?
- A: Outbreaks are declared when there is an unexpected increase in the number of cases of a particular illness.
- Q: What is the risk to the general public?
- A: The risk to the general public is low. Meningococcal infection is spread from person to person by coughing, sneezing, or close face-to-face contact. It can also be spread through saliva. This can occur through activities such as kissing or sharing of food, drinks, cigarettes, lipsticks, water bottles, mouth guards used for sports, or mouthpieces of musical instruments.
- Q: Is the Meningococcal Quadrivalent vaccine a routine immunization?
- A: Yes, this vaccine has been offered to grade nine students in BC since 2016, as part of the routine immunization program. If you have received this vaccine as part of the grade 9 immunization program in 2016/2017, you don’t need to be re-immunized.
- Students who have not received this vaccine are recommended to attend an immunization clinic at their school. For more information about clinic locations and times, visit interiorhealth.ca. If you are unsure your child has received this vaccine, call your local public health centre for a record.
- Q: Can individuals who are not 15 to 19 years old receive the vaccine?
- A: Yes, please contact your local pharmacist or travel clinic to purchase vaccine.
- Q: Where can individuals who are 15 to 19 but do not attend school receive the vaccine?
- A: Please check interiorhealth.ca for immunization clinic dates and times.
- Q: Where will immunizations be offered and when?
- A: Immunization clinics for students in Grades 9 to 12 will begin on Thursday, December 14. Please check interiorhealth.ca for updated dates and times. For individuals ages 15-19 who do not attend a secondary school, check interiorhealth.ca for local clinic dates and times. Clinics will continue over the next several weeks to ensure this population is immunized. Individuals attending a clinic to receive the vaccine should bring their care card and immunization record if available.
- Q: What reduces the spread of infection?
- A: Avoid sharing water bottles, cigarettes, lipstick or utensils with others. Individuals who show symptoms such as rapid onset fever, headache, stiff neck, or vomiting should seek medical attention immediately.
- Q: Where can I find more information about meningococcal disease and the Meningococcal Quadrivalent vaccine in BC?
- A: For more information on meningococcal disease, visit HealthLink BC https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthlinkbc-files/meningococcal-quadrivalent-vaccines.
- If you have questions about how to obtain a vaccine, visit interiorhealth.ca.
- Further information is available here:
Meningococcal Quadrivalent Vaccines.pdfMeningococcal Dear Parent Letter Nov 14, 2017.pdfConsent Form for Meningococcal Immunization.pdf