One blood donor clinic in Chilliwack and another in Abbotsford have been cancelled this week due to the recent measles outbreak.
“The clinics that we are choosing to not run is a precautionary practice to keep the blood and donors and recipients and staff safe,” said Dr. Mark Bigham, medical consultant with Canadian Blood Services B.C. Yukon branch.
Measles is a highly contagious airborne virus that can be spread through very tiny droplets in respiration. It can also be transmitted through blood.
CBS is concerned about the people who aren’t aware they are carrying the virus, since during the first few days of being infected there are no apparent symptoms.
“Initially they may not know that they have the virus, but they are actually infectious,” said Bigham.
Blood donors infected with the measles virus could unknowingly infect fellow donors at a clinic and also CBS staff/volunteers by being within close proximity to them. Additionally, each donor carrying the virus could infect up to three potential blood recipients since one unit of blood can be used for three different patients.
“We discourage donors from the Chilliwack area, and in the outbreak zone, to donate blood right now,” he said.
CBS collects about 80 to 100 units of blood at each Chilliwack clinic.
The cancellations shouldn’t affect CBS’s blood supply to any significant degree. Because of the national blood supply, “we can move blood around across the country to accommodate those who need it,” Bigham said.
Nonetheless, this should be an eye-opener for those who choose not to vaccinate, he added.
“It’s a wake-up call for all of us to remember to get ourselves and children immunized, and to protect the community as well,” he said. Not being vaccinated “has consequences beyond your immediate child and yourself.”
About five per cent of people are unable to get vaccinations, whether due to age or medical reasons.
“With measles, it’s such a contagious and infectious virus that you need such a high level of vaccination — about 95 per cent — for there to be a herd immunity,” he says.
Bigham is also a medical health officer with Fraser Health, so he’s able to monitor the outbreak on a daily basis firsthand.
CBS does not know yet if the next Chilliwack clinic, scheduled for April 14, will be cancelled.
The agency has to wait for an incubation period of anywhere from 10 to 21 days, following the end of the measles outbreak, before they will bring the mobile blood donor clinic back to Chilliwack.
“We want to keep this a measles-free zone,” said Bigham.