The BC Centre for Disease Control has issued an alert through the Canadian Network for Public Health Intelligence to inform Canadian and Pacific Northwest public health officials about two cases of measles in individuals who travelled from Vancouver to China on a school trip during March break. Passengers who travelled on Air China flight 991 which departed Beijing on Saturday, March 21st at 3:30 PM arriving in Vancouver at approximately 11 AM Pacific time the same day may have been exposed to measles. A sick passenger who was coughing on the flight disembarked in Vancouver and a diagnosis of measles was laboratory confirmed on March 23rd in Vancouver. A second case was also lab confirmed the same day.
This alert is being issued as those on the same flight as well as those in proximity to the case who travelled through YVR on Saturday may have been exposed. Some potentially exposed passengers may have been traveling to other destinations including within Canada.
While it is expected that the majority of travellers will be immune to measles, this advisory is being posted in the event that additional cases of measles with an exposure history compatible with this case come to light in the coming weeks or may become aware of this exposure and seek post exposure advice.
Measles is a highly infectious disease transmitted by airborne spread. Information about measles can be found at http://www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthfiles/hfile14b.stm
The incubation period (time to develop symptoms after being exposed) for measles is about 10 days but ranges from 7 – 21 days. Symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes, followed by a rash that starts centrally including on the face and spreads to the limbs and lasts at least 3 days. Measles can be a serious infection and is very infectious to others.
If you travelled on this flight, check your immunization status. You are most at risk of measles infection from this flight if you are completely unvaccinated against measles and have never had measles disease, including babies. If you are born after 1970, to be protected against measles you should have received two doses of measles containing vaccine (often given as combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine or MMR). If you were born before 1970 and travelled to or from China, you should have received 1 dose of measles vaccine at any time prior to travel.
Information about measles vaccination is at: http://www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthfiles/hfile14a.stm
If you were a passenger on this flight and were unimmunized, or not fully immunized, or have not had measles in the past, you may wish to contact your local public health unit for advice about measures you can take to reduce the likelihood of becoming ill with measles or spreading it to others. You should also watch for symptoms of measles for up to 21 days (3 weeks) after the flight. If you become ill with any of the above symptoms and fever, and suspect you may have measles, call your doctor and inform them that you may have been exposed to measles, so that s/he will arrange to see you in a manner that avoids infecting others, such as patients in the waiting room.
The BC Centre for Disease Control advises British Columbians to review their immunization status prior to travel. Measles has been on the resurgence for several years worldwide. The best time to protect yourself is before you travel. For more information see ImmunizeBC.ca.
Provincial Health Services Authority media pager: 604 871-5699