Someone who caught measles outside Canada, and flew to British Columbia, may have exposed the public after spending time in several parts of the Lower Mainland, including Richmond, Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health announced Tuesday (April 16).
This is the 27th confirmed case of measles in the first four months of 2019. In all of 2018, there were nine cases. Both health authorities stress vaccination as the best way to stop this progression from increasing further.
The person travelling with measles seems to have caught the virus while out of the country. The health districts warn anyone who may have been in the following places on the following dates to monitor their health:
• Saturday, April 13:
- International Terminal at the Vancouver International Airport
(YVR) between 10:25 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
- Japan Airlines flight JL018 from Tokyo to Vancouver
• Sunday, April 14:
- Ramada by Wyndham, 631 Lougheed Highway, Coquitlam
- Sun Star Restaurant (inside the Ramada) between 8:30 a.m. and noon
- Lougheed Town Centre, 9855 Austin Ave, Burnaby between 10:30 a.m.
and 3:30 p.m.
If anyone who may have been exposed comes down with what, at first, seems like a cold then progresses to a facial rash that spreads down to the torso they should call their doctor.
Both Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health warn those who might have measles to not just pop in to see any health care provider, be they a family doctor, a walk-in clinic, or an emergency ward.
Phoning first will allow the office or facility to make arrangements to see a person, who may have measles, in a way that does not put others at risk because this virus spreads easily and quickly.
The particles breathed out by an infected person—a person who may not even have symptoms yet—contain live virus. Those infectious particles live in the air for hours, able to make a multitude of people ill who can then pass along measles before they have any symptoms.
Receiving the vaccine within three days of exposure can stop the disease from taking hold in your body, according to the health authorities. Measles can take weeks to show up. Receiving the inoculation can also stop you from infecting a baby who is too young to get the vaccine, a person too frail to have immunity, or someone who cannot currently receive the shot.
The measles vaccine helps your immune system in two ways. First, when you receive the shot, your immune system goes on alert, learning to recognize and fight off this virus for the rest of your life. Second, it prevents the measles virus from ravaging your immune system. Catching the measles leaves you immunologically-impaired for weeks, months and, for some, years. The vaccine does not.
The World Health Organization had noticed that when the measles vaccine first became available in a country, the number of children dying from all kinds of infections dropped remarkably. At first, they didn’t know why. Now, it is has been shown that in the short term, the measles virus stops your body from making enough B cells that prevent infections and T cells that flag invading infections.
Now, it seems that a measles infection also has a long-term effect on your immune system, lasting years. The naturally-defensive reaction to the virus makes your body forget its other immunities. The vaccine is such a small amount of antigen that it only teaches the body to fight off the virus, strengthening the immune system rather than impairing it.
In Princeton University’s publication, “A Deadly Shadow”, Dr. Jessica Metcalfe says, “In other words, if you get measles, three years down the road, you could die from something that you would not die from had you not been infected with measles.”
In the paperappearing in the scientific journal Science subtitled, “Extra dividends from measles vaccine” researchers say that the long-term immune effect of actually catching measles “increases overall childhood infectious disease mortality.”
The four scientists from research facilities at Princeton University, Emory University, the US National Institute of Health and Erasmus University in the Netherlands say: “Close inspection of the mortality data suggests that [measles infection] disables immune memory for two to three years.”
In the paper, principal author Dr. Michael J. Mina says, “Our findings suggest that measles vaccines have benefits that extend beyond just protecting against measles itself. It is one of the most cost-effective interventions for global health.”
“Vaccination thus does more than safeguard children against measles; it also stops other infections taking advantage of measles-induced immune damage,” Mina says.
You can complete the series of two shots for free at health units, most family physicians and pharmacies. The health authorities spokespeople say that if you are unsure of your measles vaccination status, it will not harm you to get an extra shot, to be certain you are covered.