As the snow cleared in February, something new emerged: Measles. Case after case was reported to the public, and many British Columbians rushed to get immunized and avoid exposure for themselves and their kids.
B.C. saw 29 confirmed cases of measles – eight of those on Vancouver Island – but since May, not much has been heard on the outbreak.
It’s been just over two months since the Island’s last reported exposure, but that doesn’t mean the region is – or will ever be – out of the woods. At least not until everyone gets vaccinated, according to Dr. Dee Hoyano, Island Health medical officer.
“That’s what’s really been brought home to us this last year. We aren’t [out of the woods] until we have measles immunization globally,” Hoyano told Black Press Media by phone. “There’s always a chance that someone can be infected when they travel overseas or when they come to Canada and have been exposed elsewhere.”
The high rate of immunization in Canada means outbreaks, like the one B.C. experienced earlier this year, don’t have a good chance at continued transmission – but Hoyano is quick to emphasize that all the confirmed cases on the Island were linked to travel outside Canada in some form.
She says Asia, Africa and lately, parts of Europe still have higher rates of measles infection.
The only way to protect yourself and other British Columbians is immunization, she says.
“I think our biggest preventative effort is to ensure that everyone has access to immunization and gets it done,” Hoyano said. “Public education is huge. We just try to get that message out.”
Between public engagement and media coverage of measles exposures, many heard the message.
Island Health administered over 7,300 measles vaccinations since February – double the number administered the year prior.
Ultimately, Hoyano said that even if measles is off the radar for now, vaccinations should remain a priority.
“I don’t think it would be unusual to have another case of measles occurring here again. Just given the amount of travel people do… I think it’s just really important that people think about that in terms of why it’s important to be immunized.”
For more information on measles and immunization, visit islandhealth.ca.