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Burnaby family on edge after high-risk baby was exposed to measles

VANCOUVER — A Burnaby mother is furious that her baby is at risk of contracting measles after being exposed to the potentially deadly virus during a visit to B.C. Children’s hospital on Feb. 1.
Mom Stefania Seccia shows proof of her and her husbandÕs measles vaccination as her baby, Max, is stuck at home under quarantine after being exposed to the virus at B.C. Children's Hospital. Max is too young to be vaccinated.

VANCOUVER — A Burnaby mother is furious that her baby is at risk of contracting measles after being exposed to the potentially deadly virus during a visit to B.C. Children’s hospital on Feb. 1.

“It is 100 per cent the anti-vaccination movement that has taken my kid, who is a high-risk baby, and thrown him at death’s door if he has, in fact, contracted measles,” said Stefania Seccia.

So far, Max, who turns one on today, has shown no symptoms, but Stefania Seccia and her husband Sam are in a high-stakes waiting game, watching every sniffle, monitoring Max for fever and searching his little body for the telltale bright red spots of measles. He is in isolation at home until Feb. 23.

They decided to speak out on so their family’s situation would not be “for nothing.”

Seccia got the call on Friday from a Vancouver Coastal Health nurse telling her Max had been exposed to the measles virus during a visit to B.C. Children’s emergency room to deal with a stomach bug. The airborne virus is highly contagious and can stay active on surfaces for up to two hours.

“Infants under 12 months are at very high risk to get encephalitis, brain inflammation that can cause deafness, permanent brain damage or death. It’s really, really scary,” said Seccia. And they can’t be vaccinated until their first birthday.

“We should absolutely require children going to public and private schools to be vaccinated because there are children like my son who are too young to be vaccinated, children who have immune-diseases who can’t be vaccinated. They shouldn’t be put at risk because of bad science, reckless choices and total ignorance.”

Max should be celebrating his first birthday with family and friends — a milestone all the more meaningful because Max was born premature, said Seccia. “He spent the first month of his life in the NICU.” But the birthday party has been cancelled.

Emmanuel Bilodeau, the Vancouver father whose 11-year-old son contracted measles after a trip to Vietnam, spoke to Postmedia on Friday, saying his family was “ground zero” for the current outbreak in which eight children have been infected with the virus.

Bilodeau accused B.C. Children’s Hospital and Vancouver Coastal Health of not recognizing the signs of measles in his son, who subsequently passed the illness to his two brothers.

Seccia disagrees vehemently. “My message to this father is that you have to take responsibility for this. … In Canada where we have easy access to vaccinations, it is totally a choice that father made to not vaccinate his kids.”

Seccia said she feels for the three children who weren’t vaccinated. “Children are the ones who face the real risk.”

She said Bilodeau could have vaccinated the kids before their trip.

Seccia said when she and her husband honeymooned in Vietnam in 2015, they were advised by the travel clinic they’d need an MMR booster even though they’d been vaccinated as children. They got the shots.

“I’m now facing the real option that our son could die from this. The fact that I’m having this conversation should really drive home the point that the anti-vax movement is as based in fact as the flat Earth movement.

“It’s not based in science, it’s not based in fact.”

The day before Seccia got the call from Vancouver Coastal Health about Max’s measles exposure, Seccia said she had read a story confirming a case of measles in Vancouver. She immediately booked Max’s 12-month vaccination appointment, which would have included his first MMR vaccine.

She’s had to postpone that appointment while they wait out the quarantine.

“We are following all the procedures and protocols to keep others safe,” said Seccia. “Even though we don’t get to celebrate his first birthday the way we wanted, at least I know we are not putting anyone else at risk.”

Bilodeau, who was vilified on social media after going public over the weekend, told Postmedia on Monday he was no longer talking to the media.

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