Measles is a highly contagious and painful disease that can result in serious complications. It is also preventable. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Vancouver measles outbreak prompts vaccine vigilance on Island

Island health authorities push measles vaccinations - and not just for kids

A number of cases of measles have been confirmed in B.C., and while, so far, none have been found on the Island, health authorities are urging residents to make sure their vaccinations are up to date.

Measles is a highly contagious and painful disease that can result in serious complications.

RELATED: Eight cases of measles confirmed in Vancouver outbreak

B.C. health officials announced an outbreak Friday after confirming eight cases of measles in Vancouver, most connected to three French-language schools in the city.

Across the border, Washington state declared a state of emergency related to a measles outbreak unfolding in Clark County in which there have been 61 confirmed cases.

According to HealthLinkBC, one person in every 3,000 with measles may die from complications.

Measles is preventable and vaccines are available from local health units.

Two doses of vaccine can be 99 per cent effective at preventing measles infection, according to BC Children’s Hospital.

Children in B.C. born in 1994 or later routinely receive two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR), one at 12 months of age, then again before they start kindergarten.

However, some families have chosen to delay or not vaccinate their children due to safety concerns after reports were published linking the MMR vaccine to autism.

Provincial health authorities state vaccines are safe and thorough studies have found no scientific evidence of a link between vaccines and autism. They also stress that the level of risk associated with the disease is far greater than those posed by the vaccine.

“It’s important to remember that a choice not to vaccinate is not a risk-free choice. By not vaccinating, you are trading a small risk for a much more serious risk,” reads the Immunize BC website.

RELATED: Names keep adding to vaccine petition started by B.C. mom

A person infected with measles can spread the virus before knowing they have been infected.

Symptoms include a fever, cough, runny nose, and red and inflamed eyes, which typically start appearing seven to 14 days after initial exposure. These are followed three to seven days later by a rash, which lasts at least three days. People are infectious to others from four days before to four days after the onset of the rash.

The viral illness spreads through the air by coughing and sneezing, as well as respiratory secretions, and the virus can survive in small droplets in the air for several hours.

To prevent the spread of infection, Health Canada recommends calling the doctor’s office or clinic before visiting if there is a suspected case of measles.

RELATED: Philippines says 136 people have died in measles outbreak

While there is a big push to make sure children get vaccinated, health authorities also warn that some adults may not be fully protected.

Those born between 1970 and 1994, or those who grew up outside of B.C., may have received only one dose of the measles vaccine and will require a second dose to boost immunity.

Travel is another area of concern, as measles activity is high in some parts of the world. Check to make sure vaccinations are up-to-date before travelling. The current measles outbreak in Vancouver is connected to exposure while travelling outside of North America which was then imported back to Vancouver upon return.

To find out more information or to get vaccinated, find a health unit by visiting immunizebc.ca/finder


 

keri.coles@blackpress.ca

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