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 a case of measles in an individual who travelled from Calgary to Vancouver. Passengers who travelled on WestJet flight WS 287 with a scheduled departure of 11:35 AM on Monday January 18th, 2016 arriving in Vancouver at approximately 12:06 PM Pacific Standard Time may have been exposed to measles. The passenger was ill with symptoms that were laboratory confirmed as measles on January 26th, 2016 by the BCCDC Public Health Laboratory, and likely acquired measles while traveling in SE Asia.
This alert is being issued as those on the same flight as well as those in proximity to the case who travelled through these two airports may have been exposed. Some potentially exposed passengers may have been traveling to other destinations including within Canada. The likelihood of transmission is deemed small, as the case developed cough, and subsequently rash, only after arriving in Vancouver.
While it is expected that the majority of travelers 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.
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, and red eyes, followed by a rash that starts centrally including on the face and spreads to the limbs and lasts at least three 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 (including infants under 1 year old) and have never had measles disease. If you are born in 1970 and later, 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). Those born prior to 1970 are likely to be immune to measles through a prior measles infection.
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 (three 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 increase for several years worldwide. The best time to protect yourself is before you travel. For more information see ImmunizeBC.ca