Interior Health declares end to meningococcal disease outbreak

Interior Health has declared an end to the meningococcal disease outbreak in the Okanagan Valley that resulted in 12 confirmed cases and one death.

Thousands immunized following 12 confirmed cases and one death

Interior Health says more than 14,000 Okanagan teenagers have recently been vaccinated against the disease. (Valentin Flauraud/Reuters)

B.C. Interior Health has declared an end to the meningococcal disease outbreak in the Okanagan after no new cases have been confirmed.

The health authority declared the outbreak in December following 12 confirmed cases and one death in the southern Interior. 

But health officials say there have been no additional cases since December 28.

"The Office of the Provincial Health Officer and BC Centre for Disease Control have been working closely with Interior Health since the start of the outbreak," said Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer. 

"We commend Interior Health's efforts and collaboration with local communities to expand immunization which played a critical role in preventing the spread of this devastating disease and ending the outbreak."

Thousands immunized

In the last two months, more than 14,000 Okanagan teenagers have been immunized.

Interior Health called its response "significant," with thousands of doses of vaccine transported across the country and hundreds of immunization clinics scheduled.

Interior Health says over a two-month period it held more than 200 immunization clinics in the Okanagan Valley. (Interior Health)

"I want to thank the public for helping us reach this milestone, by sharing information with their friends and family and encouraging those most at risk to get immunized," said Dr. Silvina Mema, medical health officer.

"A large proportion of the high-risk population is now protected against meningococcal disease, which will greatly reduce the likelihood of future cases."

Outbreak lasted two months

Meningitis is an infection around the lining of the brain and the spinal cord. It is highly contagious and can be fatal.

The health authority says between September and November 2017, cases of meningococcal disease were identified in the Oliver area, prompting free immunization in Oliver, Osoyoos and Okanagan Falls.

On December 14, Interior Health declared a region-wide outbreak following an increasing trend of cases over a six-month period.

In October, 19-year-old Aidan Pratt of Oliver died. His father said he tested positive for meningitis though his official cause of death is still under investigation as there were other underlying health issues.