Measles outbreak contained at Langara

Faculty says quick reaction from staff prevented further illness

An infant showing symptoms of the measles virus. Photo: Dave Haygarth via Flickr.
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Reported by Missy Johnson

Update: Since publication of this story, Vancouver Coastal Health has confirmed two new cases of measles related to the recent outbreak at Vancouver schools. The number of confirmed cases of measles now stands at 15.

Despite a confirmed case of measles on campus, there’s no need to worry about an outbreak, says Langara’s dean of nursing.

According to an alert on the college’s website, the specific locations where people may have been exposed to measles was limited to the Science and Technology Building on Friday, Feb. 15, from 9:00 to 4:30 p.m..

“You’ve got maybe one or two people and we’ve got them and they’re isolated,” said Dr. Ann Syme, dean of nursing at Langara.

College sends out warning

Last Friday, the college sent an email to students and staff on behalf of Vancouver Coastal Health regarding a single case of measles confirmed to be on campus on Feb. 15. The email stated that students and staff without proper documentation would be asked to stay home if the virus circulated.  

Measles was spotted at these locations on Feb. 15 and 17, one of which sparked the alert on campus. Made with Google My Maps

She attributes the lack of an outbreak to how quickly staff were able to isolate the infected individual and reach out to everyone they were in contact with on campus while contagious. According to Vancouver Coastal Health, the measles virus can only live for up to two hours outside of the body, but individuals are contagious for four days before they show symptoms.

Even with both doses of the vaccine and the booster shot, about three per cent of the population can still get measles, Syme said. She suggests increasing public education about vaccines, to encourage a higher rate of immunization in Canada.

“We’d be dealing with a 100 per cent population who was immunized, and we’d only have three per cent who’s likely to get the get the disease,” Syme said.

Student reaction

Langara student Natalie Pecarski, believes people shouldn’t come to school if they don’t have their vaccines up to date.

“I think if you’re making a choice to not vaccinate your children or to not be vaccinated, you’re just putting people in unnecessary danger,” she said. “It lowers the collective immunity.”

Tiffany Akins, communications leader at Vancouver Coastal Health, said vaccines can be found at public health units, family doctors or walk in clinics.

 

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