New case of measles confirmed on Vancouver Island

A new case of measles on Vancouver Island has been confirmed by Island Health.

That brings to eight the number of cases on the Island since March. All have been in the Greater Victoria area.

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Several of the cases have been related to international travel, said Dr. Dee Hoyano, Island Health medical health officer, adding the risk of spread from the latest case, which involves an adult, is very low.

“The person wasn’t in any major public spaces when they were infectious — other than one medical clinic — and then also they weren’t in Victoria at some of the period when they were infectious, as well.”

Island Health is conferring with King County Public Health in Washington state on the case.

The clinic involved is not being named, Hoyano said.

“We were able to contact everyone that was there in that time period directly, so we’re not going to make it public.”

People linked to the clinic who were not fully immunized were offered a dose of measles vaccine, Hoyano said. If the vaccine is taken within six days of exposure to measles, it can provide protection against the disease.

One dose is 95 per cent effective in prevention and two doses are 99 per cent effective.

Hoyano said the vast majority of measles cases found in adults are in the younger, middle-age adult population, born after 1970. “It’s very unusual to see it in a senior or somebody born before 1970.”

People in the latter group are more likely to have been vaccinated or to be immune from having had the disease, said Hoyano, who hopes the latest case will get people thinking about being immunized.

“We know a lot of people have had one dose, because that was kind of the routine when the childhood vaccinations were given, but since then, we’ve added a second dose,” she said. “A lot of adults wouldn’t have had the opportunity to get that second dose.”

The free vaccine can be obtained from health units, doctors and many pharmacists.

Island Health considers any case of measles an outbreak, Hoyano said, but so far, there has been no community spread in Victoria.

Hoyano said a “catch-up” campaign is underway in co-operation with school districts, aimed at those who are unimmunized or underimmunized. More than 104,000 letters have been sent to parents, and in-school immunization clinics are being scheduled as needed.

The campaign is running until the end of June.

Island Health has administered 7,300 measles vaccinations since February — double the number given in the same period last year.

Symptoms of measles include fever, runny nose, sore throat, cough, diarrhea and red eyes, which are followed in a few days by a rash that starts on the face then goes to the chest. The disease can have severe consequences, including blindness and deafness, and about one in 3,000 cases is fatal.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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