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Meningococcal vaccine offered to youth aged 15-19 across Okanagan region

Since June 2017, there have been five confirmed cases of meningococcal disease due to serogroup W reported in the Okanagan region among those aged 16-19 years.
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​The most recent confirmed case was reported in early December in a high-school student in Vernon, with an earlier case reported in West Kelowna in June and three cases reported in the Oliver area in September through November.  The Oliver cluster resulted in offering of immunization to youth aged 15-24.

In total, 11 cases of meningococcal disease of various serogroups have been confirmed in 2017 in the Interior Health region. Typically, the health authority sees fewer than five cases annually.

While the risk to the general population is low, Interior Health, in consultation with the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) and Provincial Health Officer, has determined that youth aged 15-19 in the Okanagan Health Service Delivery Area (HSDA) should be offered quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine in order to reduce the risk of this disease.

For more information about vaccine clinics, see the Interior Health website.

Youth aged 15-19 years who usually live or go to school in the Okanagan Health Service Delivery Area and are home for the holidays to other parts of BC may be immunized by contacting their local health unit; information on settings offering vaccine may be found on the regional health authority web site. Alternatively, they can be immunized when they return to the Okanagan in January.  Publicly funded vaccine will also be provided for long stay visitors aged 15-19 to the Okanagan planning to live, work, or go to school in local communities where the vaccination program is being offered. Short stay visitors including sports teams and vacationers are not at a higher risk in the Okanagan than elsewhere in BC.  However, anyone wishing to purchase a dose of meningococcal quadrivalent vaccine may do so from many BC pharmacies and travel clinics. 

About meningococcal disease

Meningococcal disease is caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis, which are carried in the throat of people who may have no symptoms, but rarely will cause an infection in the blood or at other body sites, including meningitis.  

Antibiotics are offered to people who are in close contact with confirmed cases.  This is done to clear an infection from the throat and prevent transmission within a tightly knit group such as a household. 

Meningococcal disease is rare in BC, and has become less common since immunization programs were implemented against serogroup C in 2003.  In September 2016, an additional immunization program started for grade 9 students using the four-strain vaccine province-wide; the current school year is the second year of this program.  

BC has not had an outbreak of meningococcal disease since 2001 in Abbotsford. That outbreak was due to serogroup C, and resulted in seven cases including two deaths among those aged 15-29 years.  Since 2008 and because of the childhood vaccination program, only a single case of serogroup C has been reported in BC in a person under 25 years old. 
Information about trends in meningococcal disease through 2015 is available in the
Annual Summaries of Reportable Diseases in BC.

In more recent years

In 2016, nine cases of meningococcal disease were reported in BC, with no fatal outcomes. Five cases were due to serotype Y, two were due to serotype W, and two were due to serotype B. Three of the cases were younger than 20 years old, with one each due to serogroup B, W and Y.
In 2017, as of December 13th, 25 laboratory confirmed cases of invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) have been reported to the BCCDC for an annual incidence rate of 0.52 cases per 100,000 population.  This rise has been driven by an increase in serogroup W, which has historically accounted for 2 or fewer cases annually.  In 2017 to date, 15 cases of serogroup W have been reported, five serogroup Y, four serogroup B and one serogroup C.  The 15 serogroup W cases ranged in age from under 1 to 97 years, with a median age of 23 years.  Seven of these cases were over 40 years of age, and seven were aged 15-24 years.  The 15 serogroup W cases have occurred in four health authorities: nine in Interior Health, four in Fraser Health and one each in Vancouver Coastal Health and Island Health.  Six of the Interior Health serogroup W cases lived in the Okanagan Health Service Delivery Area (HSDA), with five of these aged 16-19 as described above.   The 2017 annual incidence rate of serogroup W IMD among 15-19 year olds in the Okanagan HSDA is 16.1 cases per 100,000 population.

For more about meningococcal disease, see Immunize BC:




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