Island Health has confirmed two cases of measles on the South Island, saying both people acquired the infection while travelling abroad and then sought care in Greater Victoria.

The health authority is advising people who were at the following locations on the dates and times listed may have been exposed to measles.

Date Time Location
March 6, 2019 5 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Royal Jubilee Hospital, Emergency Department
March 8, 2019 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Royal Jubilee Hospital, Outpatient clinic
March 9, 2019 8:36 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Royal Jubilee Hospital, Emergency Department
“Based upon clinical management and prior immunization, we want to assure people that risk of transmission is extremely low,” said Dr. Richard Stanwick, Island Health Chief Medical Health Officer.

Island Health identified 117 people who may have been in the area but Stanwick said they determined the number of people at risk –  those who had not received two doses of the vaccine and those born after 1970 – is around two dozen.

According to Stanwick, the two people who contracted measles were both adults and had been vaccinated for measles. Stanwick said this makes their risk of transmitting the disease much lower. They both contracted the disease while travelling in Vietnam and one of the adults visited the Royal Jubilee Hospital three times.

During the first visit to the hospital, the patient went in to treat diarrhea and measles was not immediatly diagnosed. Therefore , the proper quarantine protocols were not used right away.

In the other case, the person had a rash so officials at a medical clinic isolated the patient to prevent further exposure to the public.

These are the first two cases of measles on Vancouver Island following the outbreak of 19 cases on the Lower Mainland. Fourteen of those cases were traced to family who had travelled to Vietnam, the rest were linked to the U.S. Pacific Northwest or the Philippines.

Island Health is asking people who may have been exposed to measles to monitor for symptoms for 21 days after the exposure date. Symptoms of measles include fever, runny nose, sore throat, cough, diarrhea and red eyes, followed a few days later by a rash that starts on the face and spreads to the chest.

Anyone who is asked to call their health care provider before they visit them so the doctor can take precautions to prevent transmission of measles to others. Those who never had the measles infection, or who did not have two doses of the MMR vaccine, are at highest risk of measles. Measles immunization is free for everyone.

More information is available via Island Health’s measles information lines:

South Island: 250-544-7676 ext. 27545

Nanaimo/Ladysmith/Gabriola: 250-755-3388

Courtenay/Comox Valley: 250-331-8599

Campbell River and area: 250-850-2120

Mt. Waddington/Port Hardy: 250-902-6079

People who are at high risk of severe illness for measles infection (pregnant women, immune compromised, and those under one year of age) can also get a medicine called immune globulin that reduces the risk of severe illness if given within six days of exposure. Measles mumps rubella (MMR) vaccine given within three to six days of exposure also provides some protection.

Island Health says two doses of measles vaccine are 99 per cent effective at preventing measles. One dose of vaccine is 95 per cent effective. Rarely, those who are fully immunized can get measles but they often have a milder illness and are less infectious to others.

Free vaccine is available from local health units, family doctor, and many pharmacists. All health unites in Island Health are currently offering additional booked school age immunization appointments. These clinics are scheduled during regular clinic hours, after hours and Saturdays.

In the past four weeks, Island Health has administered a total of 2,966 measles vaccinations, which is more than double than the previous year. In addition to this, Island Health is offering to catch up all vaccines that the client is behind on at the appointment. Island Health continues to offer extra clinics to meet increased requests for immunization appointments.

Keith Vass