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1st case of measles reported in B.C. over the weekend: Health Ministry

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One case of measles was reported in B.C. over the weekend, the provincial Ministry of Health confirmed in a statement Monday morning.

This weekend's confirmed case is the first the province has recorded since 2019. B.C.'s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry confirmed the case involved a child under the age of 10 and recent travel.

Health officials said the case was reported in the Vancouver Coastal Health region and issued an exposure alert for multiple Richmond locations.

Those who were at Vancouver Airport Hotel from Feb. 24 to March 2, as well as those who were at ICBC located at 5300 No. 3 Rd. between 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Feb. 26 are being warned of possible exposure.

"Measles is a highly contagious virus that can spread through air," a statement from B.C.'s Health Ministry said. "People can pass the virus to others before they show symptoms and the virus can stay suspended in the air in a room for several hours. That is why protection by immunization is so important. People who are most at risk from measles are those who are completely unvaccinated against the disease and have not had measles."

Sixteen other cases have been confirmed in Canada so far this year, compared to 12 cases reported in 2023.

B.C.'s Health Ministry announced the case in a statement warning locals to confirm their immunization records, especially before going on spring break trips.

"With measles outbreaks being reported internationally and spring break on the horizon, the provincial health officer, BC Centre for Disease Control and public health officials are reminding people in British Columbia to check their vaccination records before travelling to ensure they are protected," the statement said.

Globally, measles cases are on the rise. The World Health Organization reported a 79-per-cent increase in cases in 2023, compared to 2022. The Public Health Agency of Canada said last month there has been a "notable recent increase" in cases in Europe. 

1st case since 2019

B.C. hasn't recorded any cases of measles in several years. In 2019, which is the last time the disease was reported in the province, 31 cases were recorded.

That year, several cases in the province were linked to travel from the Philippines and Vietnam, where large outbreaks were happening at the time. Other cases were linked to travel from the United States. Just under half of the 2019 cases were among youth aged 19 and younger.

In 2018, nine cases were recorded in B.C.

Protection against measles

Adults and children who have received two doses of measles vaccine are almost 100 per cent protected against getting the disease, PHAC says. The federal agency says a 2021 National Immunization Coverage Survey shows 91.6 per cent of two-year-olds in Canada received at least one vaccine against measles, but only 79.2 per cent of seven-year-olds have received a second dose.

The first dose of measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine is usually given to babies at 12 to 15 months. A second dose is given to kids around the time they start school, usually between four to six years of age. But B.C.'s Health Ministry says children as young as six months can get their first dose, especially if they're travelling to a place where measles is more common.

Adults born before 1970 are generally assumed to have acquired immunity to measles because they were likely infected while the disease was endemic in Canada.

Meanwhile, adults born in or after 1970 likely received one dose of measles vaccine as a child. PHAC says it wasn't until 1996 that two doses became standard.

Anyone who doubts whether they got a second dose should talk to their health-care provider about getting a booster shot. Those who don't have a doctor can get a free vaccine from their local health unit, B.C.'s Health Ministry says.

Those planning to update their measles vaccine before travelling should aim to do so two weeks before their trip for optimal immunity, the Health Ministry advises.

With files from The Canadian Press 

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