Northern Health is asking health-care professionals and the public to be alert for potential cases of measles after a number of people in the province were recently diagnosed with the disease.
There have been no cases of measles in northern BC in the last several years.
According to the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), in the past three weeks 26 laboratory-confirmed cases of measles have been identified in B.C. Of those, 22 occurred in the Lower Mainland, including one case in an out-of-province visitor. Several cases were the result of the first B.C. cases spreading the infection to others.
In the Interior, three cases of measles, including one in a resident returning from travel to India, have been confirmed in the same time period in communities around Vernon, Lillooet and Williams Lake. There has also been one additional case on Vancouver Island.
Health care providers are reminded that measles is a reportable condition which requires immediate notification to public health. Physicians should be alert to measles if they see kids or adults with a rash, fever, cough and sore eyes.
Children and adults who have had two doses of measles vaccine (MMR) are immune, as are those born before 1957 who very likely had childhood measles. Individuals without such protections should contact their doctor or nearest public health unit to arrange to be vaccinated as soon as possible.
Measles is very contagious and can be a severe illness in those lacking previous exposure to the disease or without adequate immunizations. Among the most serious potential complications 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.
Northern Health and the BCCDC recommend the following:
Kids or adults with fever, cough and red eyes should stay home from school or work to reduce spread to others, whatever virus is causing their illness
Call your physician or care provider as soon as you develop a red blotchy rash that starts on head, neck and shoulders and then spreads to cover their entire body
Before going to a doctor’s office or walk-in clinic, it is advisable to call ahead to identify yourself as possibly having measles, so you may be put in an isolation room right away. This will avoid spreading the virus to others in the waiting room
If you need to go to a hospital or the ER, you will call ahead and 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
For more information on Measles, Call your Local Public Health office, your doctor or HealthLink BC at 811. You can also visit www.immunizebc.ca/ImmVacPrevDis/measles.htm
or view the BC HealthFile on Measles at www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthfiles/hfile14b.stm