Two more cases confirmed in Fraser Health’s authority region last week
By Bex Peterson, Editor-in-Chief
CTV News reported last Thursday that Fraser Health medical health officer Dr. Aamir Bharmal confirmed two more cases of measles linked to the initial Vancouver outbreak have been discovered in the region.
“[The infected] individual was isolated since their exposure and there is no concern relating to public exposure at this time,” Bharmal said.
Given that the initial outbreak occurred in East Vancouver, there have been concerns that the outbreak is spreading further afield. A measles case was confirmed in the BC Interior this past weekend in 100 Mile House. However, the case is said to be unconnected to the Vancouver outbreak. Local health authorities have stated that the infection was likely acquired out of province.
As for the Fraser Valley, Bharmal has assured the public that the risk factors for contracting measles in the region are slim as there have been no isolated outbreaks within their jurisdiction.
“We can confirm that there is no measles outbreak at any schools in our region,” said Bharmal. “There is also no known measles exposure in any of our schools, or in the community in general.”
The initial Vancouver outbreak has resulted in 14 connected cases since it was discovered last month. 17 cases in total have been reported in the Lower Mainland so far.
The family at the centre of the outbreak confirmed in an interview with CBC News that they did not vaccinate their children with the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine due to false reports that the vaccine could cause children to develop autism.
“We worried 10 to 12 years ago because there was a lot of debate around the MMR vaccine,” said Emmanuel Bilodeau, father of the three boys at the heart of the measles outbreak. The family believes one of the children contracted the disease after a family trip to Vietnam earlier this year.
“We’re not anti-vaccination,” Bilodeau added. “We’re just very cautious parents and we just tried to do it in the manner that was the least invasive possible on the child’s health.”
Vancouver is not the only Canadian city to experience a measles outbreak in the past few years. According to Global News, Nova Scotia had over 20 cases of measles in 2017, and the Lanaudière region of Quebec experienced a significant outbreak in 2015. A Stats Canada survey from 2015 stated that while 97 percent of parents agree that childhood vaccination is “safe and effective,” our country’s MMR vaccination rate is at 89 percent.
Dr. Noni MacDonald, a professor of pediatric infectious diseases at Dalhousie University, told Global News that our vaccination rate must be above 95 percent to properly protect the Canadian population. Parents who are hesitant or reluctant to vaccinate their children often do so in a community, causing “pockets” of under-vaccination to form.
“What we do need to know is exactly where pockets of under-immunizations exist, which you’re not going to get from a national-level survey,” said MacDonald, later adding, “You cannot assume, for example with measles, that even though you didn’t get your kid immunized, your kid is going to be fine because everyone else in your child’s school got immunized.”
As for the schools where the Vancouver outbreak started, vaccination has gone up in those communities since the outbreak, according to the Vancouver Sun.
“Before this outbreak started, we had documentation for only about 70 percent of students having immunity,” said medical health officer Althea Hayden at a news conference in February. The immunization rate for the schools has since gone up to the mid-90 percentile range.