What you need to know about the Washington state measles outbreak
The measles virus is seen through an electron micrograph. (C. S. Goldsmith; William Bellini, Ph.D.)
Published Sunday, January 27, 2019 12:34PM PST
Last week, Washington state's governor declared a state of emergency related to a measles outbreak.
Health officials are urging immunization as the virus spreads, and so far 32 cases have been confirmed Clark and King counties. A single case believed to be related to the outbreak has also been reported in Oregon.
Heading south of the border, or worried about measles creeping north? Here's a quick look at what B.C. residents should know:
Are there any cases in B.C.?
As of Saturday, no cases related to the outbreak had been reported in the province, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control said.
But the BCCDC warned that anyone travelling to the affected regions are at risk because infections can occur before someone with the virus is showing symptoms.
"While it is expected that most travellers will be immune to measles, some individuals will be susceptible, including infants less than one year old or people who have never been immunized against measles," the BCCDC statement warned.
B.C. typically sees a few cases each year, usually among under-vaccinated travellers returning from parts of the world where the virus is still common.
Last year, six cases were reported. So far in 2019 only one case is known, in an adult traveller who'd just returned from the Philippines.
How can I protect myself?
Anyone heading south is advised to review and update their immunization status, especially before travel.
The vaccine is given as measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), and is available from many pharmacists and family doctors. It is considered safe and effective, but cannot be given to some people with weakened immune systems.
Those unsure of whether they were vaccinated during childhood can read more here about the scheduling of vaccines.
In addition to the vaccine, doctors recommend frequent hand washing, and advise against sharing food, drinks and utensils.
What are the symptoms?
Measles is highly contagious and spreads through breathing, coughing and sneezing. It can live as long as two hours in an airspace, even after the infected person has left.
The virus can be spread as early as four days before an infected person knows they have the virus.
Initial symptoms include fever, diarrhea, coughing, runny nose, red and watery eyes and tiredness. After a few days, a rash begins, typically starting on the face and spreading across the body.
In rare cases, it can lead to pneumonia, brain damage, blindness, deafness, and even death.
The virus usually lasts seven to 10 days.
What do I do if I think I have measles?
Those experiencing the symptoms are asked to stay home to help prevent the spread.
They should visit their doctor, but call first so the office can take precautions to protect others. Many public health authorities also ask patients to contact them to report their illness.
Vancouver Coastal Health recommends drinking fluids, staying away from others and getting plenty of rest. Some doctors may recommend vitamin A supplements for infected children.
Anyone who does not have symptoms but is concerned they may have been exposed can call 811 to speak to a nurse.