The BC Centre for Disease Control has issued a warning to British Columbians after an outbreak of measles in Washington state led its governor to declare a state of emergency Friday.
There have been 32 confirmed cases in the state in January, according to Washington State Department of Health. The number and close proximity to B.C. has the provincial health authority urging B.C. residents to ensure their vaccinations are up-to-date.
Measles is highly infectious and spreads through the air by coughing and sneezing, as well as respiratory secretions. Measles symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes, followed a few days later by a rash that starts on the face and spreads to the chest. It is important to note people with measles can infect others prior to the onset of symptoms like fever and rash.
The best protection against measles is vaccination, says BCCDC.
Travellers to the affected communities are at risk of exposure to measles. British Columbia typically experiences a few cases of measles each year, usually among under-vaccinated travellers returning from parts of the world where measles is still common.
In 2018, six cases of measles were reported among BC residents with two cases acquired during travel out of Canada and four acquired from imported cases.
The last large outbreaks of measles in B.C. were in 2014 and 2010.
To date, no cases have been reported in B.C. related to the current Washington state outbreak.
The measles vaccine is available as a combined measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, and is available from your local health unit, family doctor, and many pharmacists.
Most people are immune to measles because they’ve had two doses of the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine or had the illness in the past. However, the health authority warns that individuals born between 1970 and 1994 or who grew up outside of British Columbia may have received only one dose and would require a second.
To find a public health unit anywhere in the province, see the site finder on ImmunizeBC.ca.
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