Sara - posted on 04/05/2010 ( 73 moms have responded )
I know there's a lot of debate about vaccinating children, but this news story highlights for me why vaccination is so important.
METRO VANCOUVER -- A number of Lower Mainland residents have gone to hospitals with measles virus symptoms in the past month, public health officials said Tuesday.
"Several have been hospitalized and more assessed in emergency rooms or by their primary-care physician," said public health official Dr. Monika Naus, without being specific about the number and location of hospitals where cases were treated.
Eight of the 14 cases of measles in the Lower Mainland are associated with one household of unvaccinated family members who were exposed by out-of-country visitors, the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) reported Tuesday. A 15th case has been identified in the B.C. Interior, in an individual who returned home from India.
None of the 10 lab-confirmed and four suspect cases have been among people who had two doses of vaccine, which is needed for full protection. Of the cases so far, some of the individuals were not immunized, some had partial vaccination history and others did not know their status.
Although measles is considered highly infectious, public health officials believe the risk to the general population during the current outbreak is low because 76 per cent of B.C. children have received two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. The first dose is given after the first birthday and the second dose at about 18 months of age.
Naus, medical director of immunization programs at the BCCDC, said it's difficult to know how the earliest cases began but two genetic types have been identified from the cases so far, indicating separate importations.
"The early ones are the H1 genotype, which currently originate in the Western Pacific region. The later one is D8, which is active in India and elsewhere," she said.
As to how the B.C. residents became infected, she said: "We don't know how they became infected but suspect that they were infected by visitors to Vancouver from out of country."
Measles rates in North America and Western Europe are extremely low while elsewhere they are higher.
"We will likely never know who the sources of the measles infections were; they're likely long gone," Naus said in an e-mail message.
The cases circulating in B.C. show the effect of international travel patterns on infectious disease outbreaks.
These cases show that with global travel, even a vaccine-preventable disease "is only an airplane ride away," Naus said.
The symptoms of measles (also known as red measles) include fever, rash and cold-like effects. It can lead to ear infection or pneumonia. More serious complications, occurring in one in 1,000 cases, include inflammation of the brain (encephalitis) that could lead to convulsions, deafness or permanent brain damage.
One person in 3,000 dies from complications.