Kelowna student recovering after meningitis scare

Interior Health says it was a rare case and is not expecting to see more in the community

Interior Health medical health officer Dr. Silvina Mema.

A student who contracted meningitis at a Kelowna high school is recovering and health officials say they aren’t expecting to see any more cases of the disease related to the student.

The high school student was diagnosed last week with meningitis, caused by meningococcal disease, and a letter was sent out to parents informing them of the situation, despite a low risk of it spreading.

Interior Health says this is the second case of meningitis reported in the Interior Health region this year. A normal year would see between two and five cases diagnosed.

“The people that were at risk and in contact with this particular person have all been identified and have been offered antibiotics,” said Interior Health medical health officer Dr. Silvina Mema. “We have identified who is at risk and have dealt with it, so we are not expecting any more cases. The risk is very low.”

Meningitis presents with symptoms of high fever, headache, stiff neck and drowsiness but Mema said there was nothing to indicate that the disease is circulating in the community.

“This is a single case; we are not talking about an outbreak or a cluster,” she said. “What we know is that up to 10 per cent of teenagers can carry the bacteria but less than one per cent will develop any disease from it. It’s common to have the disease among teenagers and that’s probably because they share water bottles and are in close contact with each other.”

Mema said the regular vaccination schedule in B.C. covers meningococcal disease and its various strains but added not even vaccinations can be 100 per cent effective.

“The vaccines cover the most common strains and that’s great because we’ve eliminated the most common strains,” said Mema. “We don’t them as much as before but that means the strains that are not covered by the vaccine begin to emerge. Being immunized is the best way to protect yourself against meningitis.”

A new vaccine against four different meningococcal strains is being introduced this year for Grade 9 students, according to Mema.

 

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