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Fraser Health growing frustrated as measles spread

Hundreds potentially have come in contact with the measles virus — and not just in Chilliwack.

Fraser Health announced two more confirmed cases as of Wednesday; one a student in the Chilliwack public school district and the other an employee at a local retail outlet.

Organizers of the Chilliwack Lions Club Music and Dance Festival were also put on alert when they learned, secondhand, there were performers potentially infected with measles at the festival.

The festival, which ran from Feb. 4 to March 13, had 400 competitions, with performers coming from all over B.C.

“Yes, it’s concerning,” said festival chair Colleen Adie. “We don’t know how many of these kids are vaccinated or not.”

On March 12, Fraser Health contacted Chilliwack Academy of Music with a notification letter, believing it was the organizer of the event. When the actual organizers found out, they tried contacting Fraser Health, but did not receive correspondence back.

Despite the number of competitors and the relatively young age of the competitors, Fraser Health classified the festival as a low-risk alert.

Fraser Health only made public this week of the possible exposure.

“We were not absolutely sure of that information and we did not want to alarm all of the festival attendees,” said Dr. Lisa Mu, FHA medical health officer. “We also did not have, really, a clear way to communicate with that entire group. The decision was made to target those who would have been there most continuously and that would have been the staff.”

Alerts were also sent to students living on campus at the University of the Fraser Valley’s Abbotsford campus.

Chilliwack school district officials were not available for comment as the district is currently on Spring Break.

Fraser Health is growing increasingly frustrated with the continued spread of measles in the Chilliwack region.

People who have been in contact with measles have been urged to isolate themselves so as not to place those most vulnerable – children under five years – at risk.

“We are disappointed that people who are showing symptoms of measles are not isolating themselves, as requested by Fraser Health, and as a result other people in the community are being exposed to this infectious disease,” Dr. Paul Van Buynder, chief medical health officer with Fraser Health, said in a press release.

The infectious period is 21 days following exposure.

Information on vaccination clinics in Fraser East communities for children between the ages of one and five years is available at http://www.fraserhealth.ca/your_health/immunizations/measles/news-and-updates/

The measles outbreak first came to light on March 8 after two cases were confirmed at Mount Cheam Christian School, led by the Reformed Congregation of North America, a community that opposes vaccinations for religious beliefs.

RELATED STORIES:

March 8: Chilliwack measles outbreak prompts health warning

March 13: Measles confirmed in general population

March 19: Measles clinics for children

March 19: OPINION: Welcoming illness back

kbartel@theprogress.com

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