If you're heading to Washington state, be sure your immunizations are up to date. Washington state has declared a state of emergency related to the measles outbreak in Clark County. As of January 27, 35 people have come down with the illness. And a single case related to the outbreak has been reported in Oregon state.
To date, no cases have been reported in BC related to the Washington state outbreak. However, travellers to the affected communities are at potential risk of exposure to measles, because people with measles can infect others prior to the onset of symptoms like fever and rash. 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.
Measles is highly infectious and spreads through the air by coughing and sneezing, as well as respiratory secretions. The best protection against measles is vaccination. This virus can survive in closed areas (e.g. a bathroom) for up to two hours after an infected person with measles was there. So people who are in the same air space during this two hour period can become infected. It can also be spread through sharing food, drinks or cigarettes or kissing a person with measles.
Please review and update their immunization status at any time, and especially prior to any travel. The measles vaccine is available as a combined measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, and is available from your local health unit, family doctor, and many pharmacists. To find a public health unit, see the site finder on ImmunizeBC.ca.
In BC, children receive two doses of measles-containing vaccine during routine immunization, with the first at 12 months of age and the second at four years of age or school entry. All school-age children, university students and those traveling out of the country and born on or after January 1, 1970 should have received two doses of measles-containing vaccine, as should health-care workers born on or after January 1, 1957.
BC typically experiences a few cases of measles each year, usually among under-vaccinated travellers returning from parts of the world where measles is still common. In 2018, six cases of measles were reported among BC residents: two cases acquired infection during travel out of Canada (India and Philippines, respectively), and four acquired infection from imported cases. To date, a single case of measles was reported in BC in 2019 in an adult traveller returning from the Philippines.
In the past year, measles outbreaks have occurred in several countries in Western Europe. Present outbreaks in the US include the outbreak in Washington state as well as an outbreak among the Orthodox Jewish community in New York.
Those who are concerned about their potential measles exposure but have no symptoms can call 8-1-1 and speak to a nurse.
For more information about measles, visit the VCH measles webpage.