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1st case of measles reported in B.C. over weekend: BCCDC

Instance marks first instance of virus in the province since 2019, disease control centre says

Health officials reported the first case of measles in B.C. over the weekend, as instances of the virus crop up across the country.

The BC Centre for Disease Control said in a statement it is the first time measles has been confirmed in the province since 2019.

“This is terrifying,” Premier David Eby said during an unrelated roundtable in Victoria Monday (March 4).

“We should not have diseases that should be eliminated in British Columbia, like measles, flaring up like we’ve seen in other parts of the world.”

The World Health Organization says measles cases were on the decline for years thanks to increased vaccination efforts, but that they began to rise again in 2022. Global cases increased 18 per cent from 2021 to 2022 and a further 79 per cent in 2023.

For the most part, those had been contained in areas of Africa, the Eastern Mediterranean, South-East Asia and Europe, but North America has seen a surge in cases in recent months.

Across Canada, there have been 10 measles cases reported in 2024 so far, including the one in B.C. That’s compared to 12 cases recorded in all of 2023. In the United States, health officials have reported the same number of cases in the first two months of 2024 as they would normally see in an entire year.

Measles is a highly contagious virus that can be passed through the air before people are even aware that they have it. The virus is also capable of lingering in the air for several hours after an infected person has left the area.

The BCCDC says parents and caregivers should check their child’s vaccination records before travelling for spring break, to make sure they are protected.

Children in B.C. generally receive two doses of the measles vaccines, the first on their first birthday and the second around when they start attending school. The BCCDC says children should get their first dose even younger if they are travelling to a country where measles is spreading, however. The vaccine in those cases is recommended at six months and up.

The WHO says one reason measles cases are now rising is because of an interruption in that regular vaccination, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Another factor data points to is a growing number of parents who don’t want to vaccinate their children.

An Angus Reid poll of 1,626 Canadian adults conducted last month found 17 per cent were “really against” getting their children vaccinated. That’s compared to four per cent of parents who held that view in 2019.

At the same time, the proportion of parents who said they would vaccinate their children “without reservation” decreased from 88 per cent in 2019 to 67 per cent.

In B.C., the impacts of the pandemic and parental hesitation appear to be reflected in the numbers.

In 2018, 87.2 per cent of kids aged two and older had one dose of the measles vaccine and 82.1 per cent of those aged seven and older had two doses, according to the Provincial Immunization Registry. In 2022, however those numbers had dropped to 83 per cent and 77 per cent, respectively.

The BCCDC says vaccination is the best way parents can protect their children and prevent measles from spreading further. Eby reiterated this message on Monday and denounced any spreading of vaccine misinformation.

“Without those vaccinations, you’re putting infant children in our province at risk of very, very serious illness,” he said.

-With files from The Canadian Press

READ ALSO: Growing number of parents ‘really against’ getting their kids vaccinated

READ ALSO: Doctors urge parents to get routine vaccines for kids following pandemic disruptions

About the Author: Jane Skrypnek

Hi, I'm a provincial reporter with Black Press Media, where I've worked since 2020.
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