POLITICS

2nd vaccination clinic to be held after hepatitis A outbreak at Surrey school

03/16/2015 05:02 EDT | Updated 05/16/2015 05:59 EDT
SURREY, B.C. - An elementary school in Surrey, B.C., will hold a second vaccination clinic after an outbreak of hepatitis A.

Dr. Helena Swinkels of Fraser Health said about 75 per cent of students and staff have been contacted while North Ridge Elementary is on spring break.

Vaccinations were being offered on Monday, and Swinkels said they will also be available next week when classes resume for anyone who may have been away.

Swinkels said anyone who knows a travelling North Ridge student or staff member who is away should inform them about the virus.

"Please contact them and tell them to look at the Surrey school website and to call the Newton Public Health Unit."

Swinkels said hepatitis A is spread through contamination with stool and that washing hands with warm water and soap is important — especially after using the washroom and before eating.

The virus causes diarrhea, vomiting and jaundice and symptoms often clear up on their own, she said.

While children under five often do not have any symptoms, older adults can become quite ill, she said.

"In most cases people tend to be sick for weeks. In very rare cases it can be fatal."

Health officials believe the virus was transmitted from one family with several children at the school.

"In the Fraser Valley we do know that most of our imported cases come from South Asia," Swinkels said.

Anyone who travels to developing countries should get vaccinated before they leave, she said.

Immediate family members of an infected person are often vaccinated against the virus that is also known to transmit quickly at daycares and from food handlers, Swinkels said.

The vaccination reduces the risk of illness if it's received within 14 days of coming into contact with the virus.

A second vaccine six months later provides long-term protection, she said, adding that would not be covered by the health authority.

Officials are mostly concerned about staff and students at the elementary school.

"People who have been at the school for a short period of time or who don't spend an extended period of time with the students, we are not concerned them," Swinkels said.