Fraser Health ramps up measles awareness in Chilliwack

Chilliwack has had one confirmed measles case and several cases suspected to develop into measles, says FHA medical health officer.

Fraser Health Authority is ramping up its vaccination efforts in Chilliwack and beyond.

With 13 measles cases in B.C. since January, and five currently in Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Surrey and Burnaby, FHA says it doing everything it can to stop the spread.

It’s working with family physicians, pharmacists, public health units, and schools where vaccination rates are low.

In Chilliwack, the health authority commissioned a large billboard, located on Vedder Road near Promontory Crossing, to alert passersby of the measles outbreak and emphasize the importance of immunization.

It’s also been in contact with a few of the local schools.

While the initial case of the current outbreak was found in early August, Fraser Health purposely timed its awareness campaign to coincide with back-to-school.

“We knew in summertime there isn’t as much exchange [of the infection] in terms of people being away and on holidays,” said Dr. Victoria Lee, medical health officer with Fraser Health. “But now, with back-to-school, there are a lot more social circles where measles can spread very quickly.”

Fraser Health has confirmed one case of measles in Chilliwack, and has identified several other cases suspected of developing into measles.

Measles is an infection of the respiratory system, and is highly contagious. It is most serious for infants, who die at a rate of one for every 3,000 infections in developed countries.

“The only protection against measles is immunizations,” said Dr. Lee. “We are doing everything we can… urging families, children, parents to ensure they are protected.

Still, in Chilliwack, some have mixed feelings regarding vaccinations.

Rachel Culhane, mother of three school-aged children, admitted she delayed getting her children immunized with the MMR vaccine by six months.

Culhane didn’t feel comfortable overloading her children with several vaccines at once.

“They get so many vaccines at once, it’s got to be tough on their little bodies,” she said. “I wanted to give their bodies time to mature.

Ultimately, all three of Culhane’s children were vaccinated.

The current measles outbreak was not brought into the country by travelers, as is usually the case, noted Dr. Lee.

“It’s very concerning that what we are seeing with all the cases is that they are either un-immunized altogether, incompletely immunized, or did not know their immunization status,” said Dr. Lee. “So again, it emphasizes the importance of being fully immunized and ensuring your records are up to date.”

Vaccinations can be obtained through family physicians, the public health unit, and some pharmacies.

Related story: Four cases of measles confirmed, more suspected in Fraser Health

kbartel@theprogress.com

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