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Outbreak almost over: IH

Alanna Kelly

Interior Health is urging Okanagan residents aged 18 and 19 to get immunized against meningococcal disease before the outbreak is over.

Twelve cases were reported last year in the IH region, with 60 per cent occurring in the Okanagan. Of those, an Oliver man died with post-mortem tests showing positive for meningococcal, and a Vernon teen is currently battling a severe case.

“We know there was a death in someone who tested positive, but we do not know if that was the cause of death,” said Medical Health Officer Dr. Karin Goodison.

IH said Monday in Kelowna it expects to declare an end to the outbreak on Feb. 13, as long as there are no additional cases reported over the next seven days.

“We would see one to three cases typically per year, and our highest was five in one year,” said Goodison. “We have seen it increase, and we want it to go back down to our pre-outbreak rate before we would declare it over.”

Interior Health has administered 14,486 immunizations in the Okanagan, compared to the norm of about 3,000 per year.

“We don’t understand what is unique about the population here that has led to an outbreak,” she said.

“Sharing drinks, kissing – all of these activities that start to occur in this age group is the way meningococcal disease is transmitted."

The outbreak was declared on Dec. 14.

“One thing we are still pushing is get those aged 18 and 19 to get immunized because we have about a 26 per cent immunization uptake in that group,” said Goodison.

After the outbreak is declared over, only students in Grades 9 and 10 will be eligible to receive the vaccine for free.



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