Not a matter of if, but when measles will appear in mid-island region: medical health officer

By Dominic Abassi
April 11, 2019 - 2:17pm Updated: April 11, 2019 - 6:02pm

The local health officer says the nature of measles infections on the south island is concerning.The Canadian Press

NANAIMO — Local anxiety levels are rising given the number and nature of measles cases cropping up in the south island, the region's medical health officer says.

On Wednesday, Island Health confirmed a sixth case of measles in the capital region, bringing to 26 the total number of confirmed cases around B.C.'s south coast in the last two months.

"We haven't yet had cases north of the Malahat. I think it's now no longer a question of are we ever going to see a case, it's going to be when are we going to see those cases," central island medical health officer Dr. Paul Hasselback told NanaimoNewsNOW.

"I would say our level of concern has just escalated another notch with what's happened in the last week or so on the island."

Hasselback said while recent messaging from Island Health focused on the south island, "everyone on the island needs to be aware of what's going on." 

Typically measles infection occurs after travelling or direct exposure to someone with the disease, however Hasselback said there's elevated concern because that's not the case with the situation on Vancouver Island right now.

"For those that maybe have been hesitant or for some reason not had their child immunized, now is the time to do it. Don't wait for cases to get any closer. If you know a child or student is under-immunized, please, get it done," he said.

Hasselback said the number of people seeking measles vaccination in the last five weeks is double normal averages, making it clear people are responding to the cases popping up around the province.

A large-scale outbreak is not likely, Hasselback said, because generally vaccination rates in the mid-island are high.

"But we are likely to see measles happening in close proximity to us."

Children may receive the vaccine at 12-months and 4-years-old and the province has introduced a catch-up program through schools and local public health units. Parents of eligible school-aged children who are not up to date for measles vaccinations will be contacted by Public Health.

Island Health is encouraging everyone born after 1970 to ensure they received two doses of the measles vaccine. In Nanaimo, anyone over the age of 19 who needs to be immunized should contact a pharmacist or family doctor, as the health unit is prioritizing children. People can contact the Public Health Unit to find out their immunization record.

You can call the measles information line for the mid-island region at 250-755-3388.


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On Twitter: @domabassi

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