Thirteen measles cases suspected in Vancouver. (Contributed)

Measles unlikely to spread but everyone should be vaccinated: Vancouver doctor

VANCOUVER — A medical health officer in Vancouver says measles is not expected to spread beyond a cluster of patients but anyone travelling to other parts of the world should ensure they are vaccinated against the contagious disease.

Dr. Reka Gustafson of Vancouver Coastal Health said Monday that people often go to a travel clinic before a trip to get protection against diseases that don’t circulate locally and it’s a good opportunity to ensure all childhood vaccinations are up to date.

She said most people in B.C. are vaccinated and older adults may already have had measles so they are immune, but anyone born after 1970 should ensure they have two doses of a vaccine, which is routinely given to children at age one and then between the ages of four and six.

Two new cases were reported in the province Sunday, bringing the total to 13, with most of them linked to two French-language schools after an unvaccinated child contracted the disease during a trip to Vietnam.

“There is no generalized transmission of measles in our community right now,” Gustafson said. “We’ve had one case where the source couldn’t be identified. Other than that, every single individual who has been diagnosed with measles in our region either acquired it in a part of the world where there’s active transmission of measles or we could link it to the original cluster of measles.”

Gustafson said it took a week to get all the students’ immunization records and improvements are needed to ensure a quicker system limits disruption to families as well as use of health-care resources.

“There are strategies you can have to make sure the registry is more complete, such as requiring immunization documentation for school entry, which we don’t have right now for British Columbia but that would certainly improve documentation. We could also consider requiring vaccination for school entry in order to prevent outbreaks.”

Symptoms of measles include a runny nose, cough, fever, red and itchy eyes, and sometimes a rash. Gustafson said parents who suspect their child has the disease should call their doctor’s office in advance in order to get a separate room.

Immunization information is collected for children entering kindergarten, for new students registering at a school, and in Grades 6 and 9 when routine school-based vaccination programs are done.

The current outbreak has prompted more people to see health-care providers with symptoms that appear to be measles but often are not, she said.

Anyone diagnosed with measles is isolated at home until four days after the appearance of a rash and their immediate family members are vaccinated, Gustafson said, adding workplaces and educational facilities associated with an infected person are also notified to prevent the disease from spreading.

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