Submitted. Individuals are urged to get vaccinated for this highly contagious disease
Fraser Health is warning all residents and health care professionals to be alert for measles after several individuals in the Fraser Health region were recently diagnosed with the disease.
There are currently four confirmed cases of measles in communities across Fraser Health (Burnaby, Surrey, Abbotsford and Chilliwack), and several more additional cases have symptoms consistent with measles. While most cases of measles occur from travelers bringing measles back from another country, of concern is that most of these cases have no known exposure to measles. All cases were either unimmunized, incompletely immunized, or did not know their immunization status, emphasizing the importance of being fully immunized.
The Fraser Health Authority is currently investigating the cause of the measles outbreak, to determine if the cases are linked.
Current guidelines for vaccination against measles are that people born after 1956 should have two doses of measles containing vaccine. The vaccine is available as measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and usually given to children at the first birthday and at 18 months of age. Individuals are urged to contact their regular health care provider, their local health unit, or their pharmacist to receive the free vaccination.
Anyone who suspects they may have measles should immediately contact their doctor by telephone first, or call HealthLink BC at 811. Physicians are reminded to immediately report suspected cases of measles to public health authorities.
What is Measles?
Measles is an infection of the respiratory system caused by a virus. It is very contagious and spreads easily through the air when an infected person breathes, coughs, or sneezes, and it can survive in the air for several hours. Symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, and red and inflamed eyes (often sensitive to light). These are followed by a rash, which starts first on the face and neck, and spreads to the chest, arms and legs, and lasts at least three days.
Among the most serious potential consequences is brain inflammation (encephalitis), which occurs in approximately one in 1,000 cases. Other complications like pneumonia are common. Measles can cause brain damage, blindness, deafness and approximately one in 3,000 cases are fatal.
What should you do if you/your child develops symptoms?
If you/your child has fever and a rash that you think may be measles, you should be examined by a doctor. Call ahead so that you can be seen quickly and not expose other people by sitting in a waiting room for any period of time. You may also be examined in an isolation room (if available) and given a mask to wear, or, arrangements may be made for you to attend the clinic at a time when the waiting room is empty. Bring your/your child’s immunization record with you.
MMR is the vaccine that protects against measles, mumps, and rubella. All individuals born after 1956 should be given two doses of measles-containing vaccine after one year of age. There is no charge for the vaccination.
People born before 1957 are likely immune because measles outbreaks were common at that time and they do not need to be immunized.
To make an appointment for immunization, please contact your local health unit during regular business hours. Vaccine is also available from your health care provider and at some pharmacies for adults and children over five years old.
For more information on measles, call HealthLink BC at 811 or view the following BC Health Files online.