British Columbia

Here's what you need to know about the measles outbreak in Vancouver

There is currently a measles outbreak in B.C., with eight new cases reported on Friday. Here's what you need to know to keep you and your family safe.

Booster shot recommended if you're not sure whether you've been immunised

Two doses of measles vaccine are 99 per cent effective at preventing measles. (Lukas Schulze/dpa/Associated Press)

There is currently a measles outbreak in B.C., with eight new cases reported on Friday. 

Here's what you need to know to keep you and your family safe.

Why is there a measles outbreak in B.C.?

Measles spread in B.C. after a Vancouver family travelled to Vietnam. The family's three children had not been vaccinated against it. Cases are now affecting staff, students and family members at École Jules-Verne and École Anne-Hébert in South Vancouver.

Vancouver Coastal Health has said the cases are not linked to a previous case earlier this month, related to a man who travelled to the Philippines.

What is measles?

Measles is an infectious disease that spreads through the air. It is highly contagious and close contact is not needed for transmission.

The disease can also be spread through sharing food, drinks, cigarettes or kissing an infected person.

Measles has nearly been eradicated in many parts of the world, but there has been a resurgence in recent years.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of measles 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. Complications from measles can include pneumonia, inflammation of the brain, seizures, deafness, brain damage and death.

An infected person can spread measles before knowing they have been infected. People are infectious to others from four days before to four days after the onset of a rash.

Is the measles vaccine mandatory in B.C. schools?

Currently, no. In Ontario, Manitoba and New Brunswick, the measles vaccine is mandatory for attendance in public schools unless an exemption is issued.

How many doses of the vaccine are required?

Two doses of measles vaccine are 99 per cent effective at preventing measles.

In B.C., children receive the first dose within a year of birth, and the second dose when they start school. B.C.'s full vaccine schedule is available here.

Who is at risk?

Most people in B.C. are immune to measles.

The majority of cases now occur in those born after 1970 and who have had no doses or only one dose of measles vaccine.

People born before January 1, 1970, and those who have had measles are likely immune due to previous exposure.

Those born between 1970 and 1994, or grew up outside of B.C., may have had only one dose of measles vaccine and need a second dose to be fully protected, according to provincial recommendations.

Those born after 1970 who are not fully immunized with two doses of a measles vaccine, and who have not had measles disease in the past, should receive a dose of measles mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine.

What if I'm not sure if I've been vaccinated?

If you've lost your immunization records, they can likely be retrieved in the provincial immunization registry, through local health care providers. If you have a family doctor, they should also have your records.

Parents are encouraged to track their children's vaccinations records in the Child Health Passport, which is provided by the Ministry of Health.

What if I'm still not sure?

People who are unsure of their immunization status are encouraged to get a booster.

Where can I get the vaccine?

You can get the vaccine for free at your local community health centre or the City Centre Urgent Primary Care Centre on Hornby Street in downtown Vancouver.

If you develop the early symptoms of measles, please call your doctor's office first and tell them that you think you may have measles so they can book an appointment at a time that will ensure you don't expose others. 

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