As of going to press on Feb. 26, there have been no confirmed cases of measles in the Interior Health (IH) region.
Last week IH medical health officer Dr. Silvina Mema confirmed that even though measles cases have recently been confirmed in Vancouver, B.C. and in Washington State, there have been no cases confirmed in the region covered by IH.
Several children attending two French language schools in Vancouver were confirmed as having measles earlier this month. Vancouver father Emmanual Bilodeau, who has since admitted that he did not have his three sons vaccinated because of a distrust of science, has confirmed that one of his sons contracted measles during a visit to Vietnam earlier this year. His other two sons have also contracted the disease, which has spread through the French-language schools they attend.
Bilodeau says that he and his wife at the time made the decision not to vaccinate theirsons 10 to 12 years ago, because he believed a theory—since discredited by science—that there was a link between the Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism. Even though he says he now knows that the theory has been debunked, he still declined to have his sons vaccinated for MMR before they travelled to Vietnam, even though they received several other vaccinations before the trip.
The Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, the government of Canada, and travel clinics all recommend that all routine vaccinations—including the MMR vaccine—be up to date when travelling to Vietnam.
Two confirmed cases were added in the Vancouver area on Feb. 22, two more on Feb. 24, and two more on Feb. 27, bringing to 15 the number of B.C. residents confirmed to have the disease. One of those affected was a passenger on an international flight to Canada on Feb. 12, whose flight continued to Edmonton and who visited several sites in Leduc, Alberta while infectious. Alberta Health Services has issued a public alert listing those sites, and is urging anyone who thinks they may have been exposed to get vaccinated immediately.
Measles is a serious illness that is caused by a virus, which can stay live in an environment for several hours, putting others at risk of contracting it. It is highly contagious and spreads easily through the air. Symptoms of measles include fever, cough, runny nose, and red and inflamed eyes. These are followed by a rash, which starts first on the face and neck, spreads to the chest, arms, and legs, and lasts for at least three days.
IH says that anyone who is concerned about their potential measles exposure but has no symptoms can call 8-1-1 to speak to a nurse. Those who have possibly been exposed and have developed the early symptoms of measles should see a doctor. Please call ahead to tell the office you may have measles, so the office can take precautions to protect other patients.
IH says that the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones against measles is to ensure vaccinations are up to date. Two doses of the MMR vaccine offers the best protection, and the vaccine is highly effective and safe. Within the IH region, East Kootenay has the highest number of two-year-olds who have had the MMR vaccine (90 per cent), while Kootenay Boundary has the lowest (81 per cent). The Thompson Cariboo Shuswap and Okanagan regions are both at 86 per cent of two-year-olds who are up-to-date with the MMR vaccine.
Children under the age of 12 months are not vaccinated for measles, so the best way to protect them and other vulnerable people is to make sure others around them are vaccinated. People born before Jan. 1, 1970 are considered immune to measles and do not require the vaccine. Contact your local Interior Health public health centre if you are unsure about your immunization status, or the status of your children, or to book an appointment.
In B.C., children are offered two doses of MMR vaccine: the first at 1 year of age and the second at 4–6 years of age. A single dose of measles vaccine given at 12 to 15 months of age is estimated to be 85 to 95 per cent effective. With a second dose, effectiveness is almost 100 per cent.
Imunized individuals are also far less likely to get measles, and even if they develop measles infection, are less likely to experience severe complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis (brain damage that can lead to deafness, as well as permanent brain damage and even death).