More measles cases confirmed in Vancouver

Measles - foot Photo: VCH
Measles – foot
Photo: VCH

A total of eight measles infections have been identified in Vancouver this week, Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) announced on Friday.

Their Medical Health Officers determined that the first infection was acquired outside of North America. VCH is notifying people who were known to be in contact with the case, and is urging under-vaccinated or unvaccinated individuals among them to be immunized.

Last week, another, unrelated case of measles was also confirmed, bringing the total number of cases to nine this month.

One of the individuals visited the BC Children’s Hospital Emergency Department while they were infectious. Those who were at the emergency department on the dates and times below could have been exposed. Most people in B.C. are immune to measles.  However, if you were at the emergency department during these times and do develop symptoms of measles, VCH advises you to contact your family doctor, or doctor at a walk-in clinic.

  • January 21: 10 a.m.-6:10 p.m.

  • January 23: 4:45 p.m.-11:10 p.m.

  • January 24: 8:13 a.m.-11:40 a.m.

  • February 1: 2:05 p.m.-6:55 p.m.

Measles is a highly infectious disease that spreads through the air. Close contact is not needed for transmission. The disease can also be spread through sharing food, drinks, cigarettes, or kissing an infected person.

Symptoms of measles include fever, cough, runny nose, and red eyes, followed a few days later by a rash that starts on the face and spreads to the chest. Complications from measles can include pneumonia, inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), convulsions (seizures), deafness, brain damage, and death. An infected person can spread measles before knowing they have been infected. People are infectious to others from four days before to four days after the onset of rash.

Since a number of cases have now been confirmed, there is an increased chance of unidentified exposures in the community. Those who are unimmunized or incompletely immunized are at highest risk. Two doses of measles vaccine are 99 per cent effective at preventing measles. Most cases now occur in those born after 1970 and who have had no doses or only one dose of measles vaccine.

People born before January 1, 1970, and those who have had measles are likely immune. Those born between 1970 and 1994, or grew up outside of B.C., may have had only one dose of measles vaccine and need a second dose to be fully protected. Those born after 1970 who are not fully immunized with two doses of a measles vaccine, and who have not had measles disease in the past, should receive a dose of measles mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine. You can get the vaccine for free at your local community health centre, or the City Centre Urgent Primary Care Centre. Your family doctor and your pharmacist (for adults and kids over five) may also have the vaccine available.

If you develop the early symptoms of measles, call your doctor’s office first and tell them that you think you may have measles so they can book you in at a time that will ensure you don’t expose others. This will allow your doctor to take precautions to protect other patients. Also call Vancouver Coastal Health’s Public Health Team at 604-675-3900 for advice and to report any illness.

As per British Columbia’s measles control guidelines individuals who are not immune to measles may not attend school until the period of transmission has passed.

For more information on measles visit the VCH website.