Via The Globe and Mail: B.C. gears up for measles after two new Chilliwack cases. Excerpt:
With two confirmed cases of measles in B.C.’s Fraser Valley and about 100 other suspected cases, provincial health officials are gearing up for another outbreak of the easily transmitted, highly contagious virus.
The fight began last summer, and by fall appeared to have been successful. But because so many people have been exposed to the two new cases reported in Chilliwack, a community about 100 kilometres east of Vancouver, there are fears the disease will spread quickly in the area, where vaccination rates are low (60 to 70 per cent).
“We’re going backwards in terms of vaccinations,” said Monika Naus, medical director at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control. “We have people who won’t get them. They’re sitting ducks.”
The two Chilliwack cases, both in school-age children, forced Mount Cheam Christian School to shut down a week before its scheduled March break. The school is working with the Fraser Health Authority, but is not forcing its students to be vaccinated. Neither is B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake. He said the government will not make vaccinations mandatory, although he urged parents to have their children immunized.
Vaccination is not mandatory in most of Canada. Public health officials prefer to educate rather than force people to do it.
The cases in Chilliwack have some resemblance to November’s measles outbreak in southern Alberta, where the confirmed count topped out at 42 before being declared over. A student at the Coaldale Christian School who had been to the Netherlands contracted measles and set off the chain reaction.
To counter the spread of the virus, health workers launched a public awareness campaign, talked to schools and set up mobile immunization centres. It was a daunting task given religious beliefs and concerns the measles vaccine could do more damage than the illness.
“In this particular community [in Chilliwack], they see it as God’s will,” Dr. Naus said of the resistance to the measles vaccine. “You don’t take that decision making out of God’s hands. … The tools to prevent [measles] are all there. It’s just an uptake of the tools.”