Public Health urges vaccinations to counter outbreak of measles

Fear of vaccine led to Alberta outbreak, nurses say

  • Nov. 21, 2013 11:00 a.m.

Carolyn Grant

The province of Alberta declared a measles outbreak last month and the situation is ongoing in the south zone, which includes the Lethbridge area.

The one common denominator in the Alberta outbreak is that those diagnosed have not been immunized for measles, mumps and rubella.

There have been no confirmed cases of measles in the East Kootenay, says Nancy Ricard, a Public Health nurse in Kimberley, but they do run into the problem of parents not trusting the vaccine.

“We have people who don’t want their children to have the vaccine. It’s common. We do very much encourage parents to ensure their children’s vaccinations are up to date,” Ricard said. “Two doses of the full measles, mumps, rubella vaccine are recommended, starting at 12 months. Lots of adults haven’t had the second dose.”

Ricard says that there has been a lot of fear over the vaccine in the past ten years or so because of a false understanding that it relates to autism.

Dr. Andrew Wakefield published a study in 1998 in a British medical journal showing a link between the vaccine and autism. The study was later discounted.

In 2010, a disciplinary panel of Britain’s General Medical Council ruled that Wakefield had presented his research in an “irresponsible and dishonest” way and shown a “callous disregard” for the suffering of the children he studied.

It also ruled he had brought the medical profession “into disrepute.”

“The research of Dr. Wakefield in Britain was fraudulent,” Ricard said. “Dr. Wakefield and his associates were found guilty. But it’s so hard to correct. It did so much damage.”

Measles can cause encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain, which can lead to seizures, deafness or brain damage. Measles are highly contagious.

Early symptoms are fever, cough, runny nose and red, inflamed eyes that are sensitive to light.

A red blotchy rash appears three to seven days after fever starts, beginning behind the ears and on the face and spreading down to the body and then to the arms and legs. It can also present with white spots in the mouth.

If you have not had lab-confirmed measles in the past, or have not received measles vaccine, you are at risk for illness. Persons born before 1957 are generally considered immune, according to the British Columbia Centres for Disease Control.

If you suspect that you or anyone in your family is ill with the measles, call the ER or doctor ahead of time to avoid exposing others. Report it immediately to Interior Health at 1-866-778-7736, during regular business hours or 1-866-457-5648 on weekends.

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