Newly imported measles virus shows up in Interior

By Contributor
April 8th, 2010

Interior Health is asking healthcare professionals and the public to be alert for the signs and symptoms of measles, after three people in the region were diagnosed with the disease in the last 10 days.

The three cases are not directly connected to each other, occurring in Vernon, Lillooet and Williams Lake, and only one case had overseas exposure in a measles–endemic area. The last two cases identified over the Easter weekend had no travel history outside of their community, which is a concern, as it means there is otherwise unrecognized case spread and exposure from the Lower Mainland measles outbreak identified in the previous two weeks. All three cases lacked full two-dose measles vaccination protection.

“Measles has not been circulating in BC in the past two years, so this is a newly imported virus that is causing illness in those lacking immunity”, says Dr. Rob Parker, IH Medical Health Officer.

“This is a vaccine-preventable disease and most children routinely receive two doses of the vaccine between their first and second birthdays. That’s why we’re urging parents to review their kids’ medical records to ensure they’ve received both measles vaccine shots. It’s also important for unimmunized adults under age 53 to consider being immunized, as two of the three cases are in unimmunized adults”.

Children who have had two doses of measles vaccine (MMR) are immune, as are those born before 1957 due to high likelihood of having had childhood measles.

For those children and adults lacking immunity, measles is very contagious and can be a significant and at times, severe illness. One in 1000 people with measles develops brain inflammation (encephaltitis), other complications like pneumonia are common, and one in 3000 will die from measles.

Here are some signs to watch out for:

· Kids or adults with fever, cough and red eyes should stay home from school or work and not expose others, whatever virus is causing their illness; 
· If they then develop a red blotchy rash that starts on head, neck and shoulders and then spreads to cover their entire body, they may consider calling their physician;
· Before going to a doctor’s office or walk-in clinic call ahead to identify themselves as possibly having measles, so they can be put in a isolation room right away, and not expose others by sitting in a waiting room with others for a long period of time. If needing to go to a hospital ER for any reason, self-identify upon arriving there so similar precautions can be taken;
· All suspect measles cases should be reported to public health immediately, usually by your attending physician. 

Categories: General