Wednesday, December 29, 2004
Beach Combers 2005...?!?
A deadly bacterial infection outbreak has medical officials in B.C. urging gay men there to get vaccinated against it.
"We think we're seeing the beginning of an outbreak in gay men in B.C. and if we nip it in the bud, we can save a lot of people some grief," said Dr. David Patrick of the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.
Since October, three men have died as a result of meningococcal C disease. Four others have become ill but recovered.
There have been 19 cases detected all year. Sixteen of those occurred in men.
The infection, caused by the meningococcus bacterium, can strike very suddenly. It can cause brain damage and death. Symptoms include high fever, headache and a stiff neck.
The Vancouver Coastal Health Authority said in a news release that investigation showed no common link between the victims.
"The absence of a link or identifiable source has led the BCCDC (B.C. Centre for Disease Control) and regional Medical Health Officers to implement an inoculation campaign targeting gay men including teenagers to reduce risk and minimize further infection," it said.
"The bacteria is spread via saliva through sharing drinks, water bottles, eating utensils, toothbrushes, cigarettes, joints, kissing and sexual contacts where saliva sharing occurs," the release said.
"It is important to note that although we are seeing a current increase in meningococcal C infections in gay men, these infections can occur in men and women of all ages, but at this time we are not seeing an increased rate of infection in other groups."
The vaccine is free. The authority's Dr. Patricia Daly told The Canadian Press that 3,000 doses have been distributed to clinics.
While those outside the gay community aren't believed to be at risk, there were fears it could spread with the start of the holiday party season.
"If we don't vaccinate the group that is experiencing the high rates of disease now, it could spread to others who may have contact with these people," Daly said.
While health officials say the problem doesn't extend beyond B.C., that could change as people travel over the holidays.
With a report from CTV's Todd Battis and files from The Canadian Press
It would have been appropriate if it had been the CBC news service reporting this - then it really would have had "Beachcombers: the Next Generation" written all over it... eh?
And this is just what we needed too - another epidemic spreading with holiday travel... Terrorists boarding planes are NOT the worst thing that could happen, after all... If you really think about it...!