Many more people may have been exposed to the measles virus in Richmond, after Vancouver Coastal Health announced new cases where infected individuals travelled throughout the city between Feb. 11 and Feb. 18.
“Two new cases of measles infection have been reported to VCH,” Vancouver Coastal Health announced Sunday, Feb. 24. “Both people acquired the infection while traveling abroad. One person lives in the region and the other travelled through Richmond and Vancouver International Airport en route to Edmonton, then the Northwest Territories.”
This brings to 13 the total number of cases in the region.
Health officials released charts showing potential exposure locations, dates and times. These charts have been adjusted to allow for the fact that the virus can float in the air for up to two hours after an infected person has passed through. Nine out of 10 exposed people will catch measles if they don’t have enough immunity.
“These places are now safe,” Vancouver Coastal Health’s medical health officer Dr. Althea Hayden stressed. “There is no reason for the public to avoid going to these places now.”
If you were there at those specific times, Hayden asks you to watch for symptoms for 21 days after your exposure date. Symptoms include a cold-like illness with fever, cough, runny nose, and red eyes, followed a few days later by an itchy, red rash that often starts in the hair line and spreads down to the chest.
Measles is serious. Problems can exist for months or years after the disease seems to go away. Also, according to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, pregnant women run the risk of miscarriage, preterm labour, or stillbirth from measles.
“If you develop symptoms please contact your health care provider before you visit them so they can take precautions to prevent transmission of measles to others,” Hayden says. Call VCH Public Health at 1-855-675-3900 and ask for the nurse on call.
You can be infectious for days before the symptoms appear. Hayden says when 98 percent of the population is vaccinated, measles won’t likely spread. That high-vaccination rate stops the measles that are circulating in the community and the cases brought into the community from abroad.
If you get the vaccine right after an exposure, it can stave off the worst of the illness or prevent it completely because, caught early, the shot works faster than the virus.
Hayden suggests phoning your pharmacy to see if they have MMR in stock. The vaccination is free.
If you are unsure, “Get a vaccine now.” Hayden says. An extra shot will not harm you.
“We are not concerned about running out of vaccine,” she says.
She also had a word for those who cannot get the vaccine.
“In addition, those with immune compromise, pregnant or infants under one year of age, there is another medication that we can give for up to six days following an exposure. You can call either your physician or public health so we can ensure you get the care that you need.”
Hayden says there is an upside to this outbreak; more people are getting their shots.
“We have seen people throughout the age spectrum and that’s fantastic news. We have seen a huge number of people getting vaccinated for the first time. It’s the best thing we can do to protect ourselves and the best thing we can do to protect our community.”
The bulk of the measles cases have involved French schools in Vancouver: École Anne-Hébert, École Jules-Verne and École Rose-Des-Vents.
Richmond locations where individuals with measles visited:
Feb. 11 around 4 p.m. on Philippines Airlines Flight PR 116 at YVR
Feb. 11 from 4 to 7 p.m. at YVR international arrivals and customs areas
Feb. 11 from 5 to 7 p.m. on shuttle bus from YVR to La Quinta Inn in Richmond
Feb. 12 from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. on shuttle bus from YVR to La Quinta Inn
Feb. 15 from 5:30 to 9:30 a.m. at Russel Sean Fitness, 9 – 12491 No. 2 Rd.
Feb. 15 from 3 to 5:30 p.m. at Sport Chek at Richmond Centre
Feb. 16 from 6 to 10 p.m. at Little Ongpin Restaurant in Richmond
Feb. 17 from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Toys R Us at Lansdowne Centre
Feb.17 from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. at the Starbucks on No. 1 Road at Bayview
Feb. 17 from 1:00 to 3:45 p.m. at Dave’s Fish and Chips in Steveston
Feb. 18 from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Toys R Us at Lansdowne Centre
Story hits home
“I remember little of my life as a toddler but I do remember lying on my parents’ big bed, with my pregnant Mum and her letting me feel the baby kick. If it was a girl, they were going to name her Elizabeth Joan and call her Bethie. I must have been about three.
I also vividly remember having the measles as a toddler. I felt so utterly ill. My grandmother said I was sent to my grandparents’ because my mom was pregnant with my sister. I remember the shuttered curtains in the living room, standing in my crib, listening to my favourite song from Brigadoon. Nothing helped how overwhelmingly sick I felt.
My little sister was born at 26 weeks. Bethie lived for four days.”