The return of a preventable disease
Measles – A highly contagious yet preventable disease with possibly deadly implications
Vaccines – A medically and scientifically sound method of disease prevention
Anti-Vaxers – People who oppose the use of vaccines
What is Measles?
Thankfully, fewer and fewer people in recent years have had to know about measles. With an official measles outbreak declared in Vancouver, however, now is the unfortunate time to get educated if you want to stay safe.
Firstly and most importantly, measles is extremely contagious. Scientists categorize measles as being more contagious than the Ebola virus, which had people panicking about a global pandemic. This is all due to the fact that measles can be transmitted not just by bodily fluids like sweat, tears, saliva, etc. but it can also be transmitted through the air. In fact, the disease can linger for hours after a contagious person has moved on from an area.
After infection, the disease usually does not present any symptoms for 10 days, though the amount of time can vary significantly. During this time, the infected person is still highly contagious. Common symptoms, when they do roll around, include fever, runny nose, red eyes, and a distinctive rash that commonly spread to cover the entire body. More serious symptoms include pneumonia, ear infections, encephalitis (swelling of the brain), liver infections, and meningitis (swelling of the membranes around the brain and nerves).
In most cases, the disease does not result in serious or lasting health problems, though complications are not uncommon. These complications are often the more serious symptoms listed above and can result in death or chronic and incurable health difficulties such as deafness, permanent scarring, and immune system deficiencies.Infants and elderly are at particular risk of infection and complications.
On the bright side, measles is a preventable disease with a readily available vaccine. Barring infants and anybody with pre-existing immune system issues, anybody can be vaccinated for measles. It is also scientifically proven that the vaccine is safe: statistics show that a person is more likely to be struck by lightning in any given year than to have any serious health complications related to the vaccine.
So Why Isn’t Everybody Vaccinated?
Despite these statistics, there are still “anti-vaxers” who are opposed to vaccination. The reasons vary from person to person, though religion and distrust in science are common factors.
Much of the danger that comes from anti-vaxers isn’t to themselves, but to their children. As mentioned before, children are especially vulnerable to measles, and when an adult refused to vaccinate their child, it puts the child at an even higher risk. Many anti-vaxer parents argue that they are protecting their children from the supposed side effects of vaccines, despite the fact that the supposed harm of vaccinations has been debunked in medical institutions around the world. Furthermore, the children themselves are too young to comprehend the vulnerable position they are in.Today, a large segment of the Canadian population remains unvaccinated.
The Recent Outbreak In Vancouver
An official measles outbreak has been declared by Coastal Health Services (CHS). This came after three French-language schools in Vancouver became ground zero for a dozen confirmed, and potentially as many as 40 unconfirmed, cases of measles.
Following an investigation, it is suspected that the disease was brought to Vancouver by an unvaccinated family returning from vacation in Europe. There is a list of places during specific times around when infected people were there that have been declared infectious. These places and times are available on the CHS website, and it is recommended that you see a doctor immediately if you suspect that you have been exposed to the disease.
Since the initial outbreak, at least two other cases of measles unrelated to the initial outbreak have been declared. One case was of a man traveling from Vietnam, and the other, from the Philippines.
The government has responded to the situation by increasing awareness of the disease, its consequences, and its vaccine. The government has also put nearly 40 people under strict observation due to the possibility that they may be infected.
- Chances of ear infection as a result of measles: 1 in 10
- Chances of pneumonia as a result of measles: 1 in 10
- Chances of encephalitis as a result of measles: 1 in 1,000
- Chances of death as a result of measles: 1 in 3,000
- Chances of being struck by lighting in your lifetime: 1 in 3,000
- Chances of complications resulting from the measles vaccine: 1 in 1,000,000
- Chances of being struck by lightning in any one year: 1 in 700,000
Gallup, Sean. “Measles in B.C.: How We Got Here and What You Need to Know.” Vancouver Sun, 27 Feb. 2019, vancouversun.com/news/local-news/measles-in-b-c-how-we-got-here-and-what-you-need-to-know.
Crawford, Tiffany. “Five Things to Know about Measles in B.C.” Vancouver Sun, Vancouver Sun, 18 Feb. 2019, vancouversun.com/news/local-news/five-things-to-know-about-measles-in-b-c.
“Flash Facts About Lightning.” National Geographic, National Geographic Society, 24 June 2005, news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/06/flash-facts-about-lightning/.
“2 More Measles Cases Confirmed in B.C. Lower Mainland among People Who Had Travelled | CBC News.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 25 Feb. 2019, www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/health-authority-confirms-2-more-measles-cases-in-b-c-lower-mainland-1.5031857.
Lindsay, Bethany. “B.C. Is in the Middle of a Measles Outbreak. Here’s How to Figure out If You Need to Get the Vaccine | CBC News.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 27 Feb. 2019, www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/measles-outbreak-who-needs-vaccine-1.5034726.