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One measles case reported in B.C. as officials urge vaccination before travel

Darpan News Desk The Canadian Press, 04 Mar, 2024 10:41 AM
  • One measles case reported in B.C. as officials urge vaccination before travel

Measles outbreaks internationally have health officials in British Columbia joining Canada's top doctor in encouraging people to get vaccinated before travelling abroad during spring break,

One case of measles was reported in B.C. over the weekend, according to a joint bulletin issued Monday by the provincial government, the BC Centre for Disease Control and the provincial health officer. 

There have been about a dozen cases elsewhere in Canada this year compared with that many in all of 2023.

Officials in B.C. said babies as young as six months should be vaccinated against measles before travelling to countries where the disease is spreading.

They said the measles vaccine is given in two doses — first as the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine at about 12 months, and then around the time school starts as the measles, mumps, rubella and varicella vaccine.

Children between the ages of 12 months and four years can also get their second dose before travelling outside the country to be protected against the extremely contagious virus, the bulletin says.

Kids aged four and older can be vaccinated by a pharmacist, and if it's their first dose, immunization is best at least two weeks before travel to give their body enough time to build immunity, it adds.

Vaccine appointments can be booked through local public health units, community health centres or nursing stations as well as some primary care providers, but it's recommended that people call first to check if the measles vaccine is available.

Adults can also be vaccinated by a pharmacist but may already have protection from childhood vaccination or from having had measles, but they should ensure they have received two doses of a measles-containing vaccine if they were born in 1970 or later.

Measles vaccines are typically not needed for those born before 1970 as most people in that age group have immunity to measles from a prior infection, before vaccination was widely available.

Students in B.C. will start a two-week spring break on March 18, when those in Ontario begin a one-week break. Schools elsewhere are closed for spring break in March or April.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, has strongly advised Canadians to be vaccinated with two doses of the measles vaccine, especially before travelling.

"As we head into the spring break travel season, I am concerned that the global surge in measles activity, combined with the decline in measles vaccine coverage among school-aged children in Canada, could lead to an increase in imported measles cases," she said in a statement issued Feb. 23.

"Although measles has been eliminated in Canada, cases can still occur here when an individual who is not fully vaccinated has travelled to or from a country where measles is circulating," the statement says.

The World Health Organization reported a 79 per cent increase in the number of global measles cases in 2023 compared to the previous year. 

 

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