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Measles clinics for children start today in Chilliwack

Chilliwack
Chilliwack's measles outbreak has spread to the general population; special vaccination clinics being organized.
— image credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO

No "significant" spread of measles has been reported outside Chilliwack and Agassiz, say health officials.

This comes five days after Fraser Health first reported measles had been detected in the general populations of Chilliwack and Agassiz, on the heels of a cluster of cases at Mount Cheam Christian School in Chilliwack.

Measles vaccine clinics are set — for kids under five only — starting Tuesday, March 18, and will run daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. until March 28 at the Chilliwack Health Unit.

"Fraser Health is still working very hard to contain the outbreak, and to prevent further spread of measles in these communities," said Dr. Lisa Mu, medical health officer for Fraser Health. "We appreciate the cooperation we have received so far and want to make people aware of the vaccination clinics that will be occurring daily."

Fraser Health will be offering clinics for children at the Chilliwack and Agassiz Health Units, since that age group is the most at risk of serious disease from highly contagious measles, and the most vulnerable to it, said Mu.

These clinics are by appointment only so call in advance. No appointments over the lunch period, unfortunately.

About 80 to 100 cases of measles have been reported in the Fraser East coverage area, mostly in Chilliwack. The Progress learned on March 8 that two cases were confirmed at Mount Cheam Christian School.

Health officials are working closely with school officials to get the students back to classes at the affected school.

"We are asking for patience and cooperation, as Fraser Health may need to contact them again to gather the most up-to-date information," said Dr. Mu.

Only one case of measles, linked to the original outbreak, was a person who attended BCIT classes earlier this month on two specific occasions. So health officials were alerting on-campus contacts who may have run into this individual. They were advised to return to school only if they had two doses of vaccine, were born before 1970, or if they had the measles in the past.

"The risk to the general BCIT student population is low, as most of the population are in the age group that would have received two doses of measles-containing vaccine," said Fraser Health officials in the press release of March 17. "At this point, there has been no significant spread of measles outside of the Fraser Valley East communities."

The measles outbreak has been linked to Mount Cheam Christian School, which has "traditionally low immunization rates."

Does vaccine resistance in religious communities impact the public health message being broadcast by Fraser Health?

"We respect the religious beliefs of these groups, however for others we strongly recommend that they vaccinate their children since the risk of measles disease is many more times greater than risk associated with the vaccine," said Dr. Mu.

Those who have only had one dose of measles-containing vaccine to date, should obtain a booster dose as soon as possible.

At least one nine-year-old child was admitted to hospital but has since been released.

People with symptoms of measles are asked to stay home in isolation. Anyone who is seriously ill is asked to contact their doctor, public health unit, or emergency department prior to arriving in order to prevent the spread of the disease to other vulnerable patients. See more at the BC Centre for Disease Control website.

The Chilliwack Public Health Unit is located at 45470 Menholm Road at 604-702-4900.

These clinics are for children under the age of five, who require measles vaccine and are by appointment only. People over five, requiring the measles vaccine should speak to their physician or a local pharmacist.

Other clinics:

Agassiz Health Unit (call 604-793-7160)

•    March 18 - 9:30 – 11:30

•    March 20 - 9:30 – 11:30

Hope Health Unit (call 604-860-7630)

•    March 25th 1:00 – 4:00

•    March 27th 1:00 – 4:00

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

Twitter.com/chwkjourno

* Revised version after correction made to health unit address.

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