British Columbia

BC Ferries passengers warned of possible measles exposure linked to Maple Ridge school case

Fraser Health is holding a free immunization clinic on Friday, two days after it says students and staff may have been exposed to measles; now the authority also says a person with measles travelled on a BC Ferries sailing from Tsawwassen to Mayne Island.

Maple Ridge Secondary students, Tsawwassen-Mayne Island passengers told to contact doctor if showing symptoms

The Victoria and Saanich Health Unit will both be open on Sunday, April 7 to provide the MMR vaccine to people who are not immunized against measles. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Fraser Health says passengers on a recent BC Ferries sailing along with students and staff at a high school in Maple Ridge may have been exposed to measles.

The authority says on Aug. 31, a person with measles took the 7 p.m. PT sailing from Tsawwassen to Mayne Island aboard the Salish Raven.

"The case was infectious on the voyage, potentially exposing other passengers to measles," said the authority in a release.

The person is also believed to have visited the Saturna Lighthouse Pub on Saturna Island on Sept. 3 between 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. PT.

Ingrid Tyler, a medical health officer with Fraser Health, says someone infected with measles normally doesn't start experiencing symptoms for several days. 

"So it's not uncommon for individuals who are infectious to just go about their daily lives," she said.

BC Ferries says the Salish Raven has been cleaned since the corporation learned a passenger with measles was on the ship from Tsawwassen-Mayne Island on Aug. 31, 2018. (BC Ferries)

Tessa Humphries, a spokesperson for BC Ferries, says once it was told about the passenger, it contacted Health Canada about how to proceed. 

Crews are now doing frequent handwashing, cleaning all surfaces of the Salish Raven and helping Fraser Health advise passengers about the potential risk.

"Our employees are going around as the ferry is in service and doing that additional cleaning and that's a recommendation we're following from Health Canada," said Humphries.

Highly infectious

Measles is a highly infectious disease and people who are not immunized against it are at risk, according to the authority.

Tyler says the infected person came back from their trip and then attended school starting on September 4.

A measles alert was issued at Maple Ridge Secondary School earlier this week.

Fraser Health sent a letter home to parents about a student who was in class on Tuesday who had a medically diagnosed case of the measles, according to the school district.

Tyler says so far, the two exposures, plus the Saturna Island pub visit, are the only ones Fraser Health is aware of.

The memo sent home from the school by the authority said anyone born later than 1970 who hasn't had the MMR vaccine needs to do so by Monday, or they won't be allowed into the school until Sept. 26.

Students and staff at Maple Ridge Secondary may have been exposed to a case of the measles on Sept. 4, according to Fraser Health. (School District 42)

Fraser Health recommended that anyone born after that date who has had a dose of MMR get another round in order to protect themselves.

A free immunization clinic is being held at the school on Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Meanwhile, the authority is also asking ferry passengers who may have been exposed to check their immunization records and contact their doctor if they develop symptoms.

What is measles?

Measles is a highly infectious airborne virus. 

Symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes and a spreading rash lasting at least three days. Those affected can start to feel sick within seven to 21 days of exposure.

Anyone who suspects they have measles should contact their doctor, who can arrange an examination without the risk of infecting other patients.

Tyler says immunization rates for measles are increasing across the province, but rates are only at about 80 per cent.

Immunization rates need to be closer to 95 per cent to achieve herd immunity, which would prevent the disease from spreading.

With files from Jodi Muzylowski

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