Island Health has confirmed one new case of measles in the capital region, bringing the total to six on south Vancouver Island and 26 in B.C.
Dr. Dee Hoyano, a medical health officer with Island Health, said on Wednesday that people might have been exposed to measles on March 26 and March 27 through common spaces, including the washrooms, at the Pennbridge building at Royal Oak shopping centre, from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. both days.
Anyone who was at the location during the specified times and has not received two doses of the measles vaccine, or who was born after 1970 and has never had the measles infection is encouraged to get vaccinated.
Two doses of measles vaccine are 99 per cent effective at preventing the disease, while one dose is 95 per cent effective, Island Health said.
The vaccine is available for free from health units, family doctors and many pharmacists.
“At this point we only have a handful of cases,” Hoyano said. “The more community-level immunization we have, the less likely we’ll see further spread.”
Island Health is asking anyone who might have been exposed to measles at the Pennbridge building — including those who are fully immunized — to watch for symptoms until April 17.
Symptoms of measles include fever, runny nose, sore throat, cough, diarrhea and red eyes, followed a few days later by a rash that starts on the face and spreads to the chest.
Island Health recommends that those who have symptoms call ahead before visiting a health provider so they can take precautions to prevent transmission.
With measles being rare in Canada, health officials in the capital region are concerned to see a number of people becoming ill around the same time.
The first two cases reported involved two unrelated adults who contracted the disease while travelling in Vietnam.
Island Health can’t say if the four other cases are related to the earlier cases.
“We haven’t made any direct connection between these cases,” Hoyano said. “We’ve had a number of cases occur at the same time but we haven’t been able to link them specifically.”
Island Health said all of its health units are offering additional immunization appointments for school-aged children during regular clinic hours, after hours and on Saturdays.
Last month, the province announced a measles immunization catch-up campaign, an effort to vaccinate 95 per cent of the province’s youth. In 2018, just 82 per cent of seven-year-olds had received both doses of the measles vaccine.
For more information, call 811 or go to healthlinkbc.ca or immunizebc.ca/measles.
Island Health also suggests calling its measles information line for services in your area:
• South Island — 250-544-7676 ext. 27545
• Nanaimo/Ladysmith/Gabriola — 250-755-3388
• Courtenay/Comox Valley — 250-331-8599
• Campbell River and area — 250-850-2120
• Mount Waddington and Port Hardy — 250-902-6079