There are now at least 10 confirmed cases of measles in Vancouver, prompting health officials to warn potentially exposed individuals to either get vaccinated, or get themselves a booster shot in order to protect themselves against the virus.
This latest measles outbreak comes just three months after health officials in Surrey issued a similar warning to anyone who may have attended Fleetwood Park Secondary School between October 30th and November 2nd – and while health officials say Vancouver’s current outbreak appears to be concentrated to French-language secondary school École Jules-Verne (with no immediate concern for the broader public), people are still being urged to update their MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccine as a precautionary measure, as well as be aware of the signs and symptoms.
Signs and Symptoms
Upon exposure to the virus, it typically takes approximately 10 to 14 days (sometimes a bit longer) before you will even notice symptoms – often making people unaware they’ve been exposed to the virus in the first place. This is known as the incubation period. The initial symptom that most commonly develops as a result of being exposed to the measles is a fever, which is sometimes mistaken for the flu/influenza. The measles rash also typically doesn’t appear until around 14 days after exposure, or 2 to 3 days after the fever has set in. In addition to fever and rash, other symptoms associated with the measles include cough, runny nose, conjunctivitis (red, inflamed eyes), loss of appetite, as well as the appearance of small white spots located on the inside of the mouth (such as the inner cheek.) It’s important to note that when a measles rash develops, the face is often the first part of the body affected before spreading to other areas.
Risk Factors and Prevention
Someone with the measles is considered contagious for at least 8 days (at least 4 days prior to the rash appearing and ending when the rash has been present for approximately 4 or 5 days.) This is known as the communicable period. During this period, it is recommended that you avoid contact with other individuals. Alternatively, individuals who have weakened immune systems should also avoid direct contact with people with the measles until the virus and their symptoms have cleared completely. You’re also at an increased risk of developing the measles if you happen to be vitamin A deficient.
As mentioned, the best way to prevent the measles (and to prevent spread of the measles) is by getting vaccinated. The MMR vaccine can protect against the measles by as much as 93%, while the recommended booster vaccine can improve the effectiveness of the initial vaccine by as much as 97%, therefore significantly decreasing your risk of developing the measles. The MMR vaccine is recommended for all children – first given between 12 and 15 months of age, while the booster vaccination is usually given between the ages of 4 and 6. Adults who have not been vaccinated against the measles are recommended to get at least one dose of the MMR vaccine, as well as individuals who attend school or work in the healthcare industry. Women planning to get pregnant should also get at least one MMR vaccination at least one month prior to pregnancy, as the measles can be dangerous for an unborn baby. In some cases, children may need to be vaccinated against the measles earlier than the recommended age, and individuals who may be travelling out of the country are also urged get vaccinated.