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No new measles cases in Whistler and Pemberton

Four cases confirmed last week, vaccinations urged by Vancouver Coastal Health

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Medical authorities are watching out for new measles cases, after an outbreak in Whistler and Pemberton led to four people being diagnosed with the virus during the week of July 8 to 12.

Dr. Paul Martiquet, medical health officer for Vancouver Coastal Health, said there had been no new cases as of July 16, but vaccinations were still being carried out for those considered to be at risk.

"We've been immunizing people considered to be at risk and the good news is that we've had no new suspected cases in Whistler or Pemberton. We're hoping that because of the good work we did with the mumps campaign (in 2011) and now immunizing those people vulnerable to measles in Whistler that we're going to be able to extinguish this outbreak, so hopefully there will be no more cases," Martiquet said.

No cases were found in Squamish.

In Canada one person in every 3,000 with measles dies from their infection.

Complications from measles include inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), seizures, deafness or brain damage. It is also highly infectious and can spread through the air when someone infected coughs or sneezes.

Children in B.C. born in or after 1994 routinely receive two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR), one at 12 months then again before they start kindergarten. Those born before 1994, or who grew up outside of B.C., may have received only one dose of the vaccine and require a second dose.

Martiquet previously said in a release announcing the outbreak: "Hundreds of thousands of people around the world contract measles every year. Whistler has many international visitors and residents who may not have had the same vaccinations as those from British Columbia, in some cases come from countries that are experiencing measles outbreaks."

Dr. Cathryn Zeglinski at Northlands Medical Clinic in Whistler said she had treated one suspected measles case on Thursday, July 11, adding that one of her colleagues had treated a confirmed case of measles in a restaurant worker that has led to others being monitored by health workers.

She believes that this outbreak and a mumps outbreak two years ago could be linked to a lower uptake of the MMR inoculation for children in recent years, with some parents linking the vaccine to autism.

"I've been a physician for 20 years and I'd never seen mumps until two years ago — who gets mumps? I'd never seen measles. Some parents have their own reasons for not vaccinating their children and I try not to judge, but this outbreak is scary," Zeglinski said. She added that controversial studies suggesting an autism connection to the MMR jab had been discredited.

"They say they are making this choice for their children but they also make the choice for the wider society, and I don't think they think about that."

Martiquet said the virus is passed on easily and close contact is not necessary for someone to catch it.

People with measles are infectious before they develop the typical fever and red rash. The illness begins with a fever, red eyes, cough and a runny nose. Those who develop a fever and rash should isolate themselves and call their doctor's office so that precautions can be taken to protect other patients before visiting the office.

Vaccinations are free to B.C. and non-B.C. residents from infants to adults if administered by Vancouver Coastal Health. They are available in Whistler and Pemberton at the following locations:

Whistler Health Care Centre — Monday to Sunday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Drop-in, fee for non-BC residents.

Whistler Medical Clinic — Every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Booked appointments, fee for non-B.C. residents.

Pemberton Health Care Centre — Monday to Sunday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Drop-in, fee for non-B.C. residents.

Other locations can be found here: http://www.vch.ca/media/Measles-clinic-locations-Whistler-Squamish-Pemberton-area-July-2013-V2.pdf.

For more information on the outbreak, visit www.vch.ca.

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