A renewed emphasis on the third phase of the meningococcal disease immunization campaign has been necessitated by the 12th confirmed case identified within the Interior Health region this year.
Dr. Trevor Corneil, vice-president population health and chief medical health officer for Interior Health, said the most recent case confirmation last week concerned a youth in the Thompson-Cariboo region.
“We’ve had 12 cases in total but five of those were close enough together with a certain age group and geography location within the Okanagan to call that an outbreak,” Corneil said.
The immunization campaign has targeted the Okanagan region from Enderby to Keremeos, specifically the 15-19 age group considered most vulnerable to the disease.
Corneil said the initial immunization response uptake was on a positive participatory trend prior to the Christmas vacation break at schools and has been much slower since.
According to the IH website, 12,260 people have been immunized which is 59.7 per cent of the target 15-19 age group.
“It’s unfortunate but not unexpected to see a drop-off over the holidays. With schools out, we are trying other ways to get the message out to this highest risk group for the disease to get immunized,” Corneil said.
“The first phase of the campaign was before the holidays, the second phase has been over the holidays and the this phase will start up in schools again Jan. 8. That is when we have the attention of the captive audience we are trying to reach.”
Corneil said how long the campaign will carry on, with a 75 to 95 per cent uptake vaccination target, will depend on new reported cases of the disease.
“This latest reported case is a bit of a setback but we are really going week to week on this. The six cases reported in the second half of (2017) have all been severe. One teenager has died and another has involved potential neurological damage.”
One of the cases involved a Kalamalka Secondary School Grade 11 student, who was sent to hospital in Vancouver in a medically induced coma three weeks ago.