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No cause to fret about measles in the Okanagan

A measles outbreak in the Fraser Valley has not made a shift into the Okanagan, health officials say.

“There are no reported cases in the Interior,” said Interior Health medical officer Dr. Trevor Corneil, adding that measles haven’t been reported in the region since 2011.

The most effective guard against disease spreading is the vaccination rate in Kelowna, which sits at 90 per cent.

A 95 per cent vaccination rate is considered ideal for attaining community immunity, but Corneil said the current level provides sufficient protection should a measles case come through town.

“One of the problems with the outbreak is that there are pockets of people who don’t immunize and as a result (the measles) is spreading like wildfire,” he said, adding that a droplet of bodily fluid is all it takes for the disease to spread.

Despite the fact it’s highly contagious, health officials had all but eradicated measles from Canada until it made a resurgence in communities where there is a low vaccination rate.

In the East Fraser Valley region, where the current outbreak started, around 100 suspected cases were reported from a religious school where vaccinations are discouraged.

The Fraser Health Authority announced just days later that measles had spread to the general populations of Chilliwack and Agassiz, which has a vaccination rate somewhere in the area of 60 to 70 per cent.

Although some have religious reasons for vaccine avoidance, the Health Authority has also encountered others who have fears that vaccines have medical side effects they’d like to avoid.

“That’s always a concern. We spend a significant amount of time and effort locally and internationally trying to dispel untruths,” said Corneil. “If someone is concerned, a public health nurse can help sort that out.”

Vaccines are always available to those who need or want them, he said, and getting the measles jab ensures that the virus can’t do its worst.

Symptoms of measles include a high fever, cough, runny nose, drowsiness, irritability and red and inflamed eyes. Small white spots may appear in the mouth and throat.

A red blotchy rash begins to appear on the face three to seven days after the start of symptoms, then spreads down the body to the arms and legs. This rash usually lasts four to seven days.

“Any of these symptoms could be measles,” he said. “If you have them, call a family doctor or the walk-in clinic.”

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