March 22, 2014 1:01 am
Updated: March 22, 2014 10:42 am

Measles outbreak is a “matter of life or death” for 3-year-old boy


Despite the spring-like weather hitting the Fraser Valley, three-year-old Ian Sewell has to spend most of his time at home these days. For him, it’s a matter of life and death, thanks to a measles outbreak in the community, which threatens his health.

Ian was born with a rare liver disease and received a liver transplant when he was eight months old. As a result of being a transplant recipient, he’s unable to get vaccinated for the measles.

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“He’s on two immunosuppressant drugs right now so that dampens his immune system and his resistance to fight off things like the measles” his mother Amanda says.

“Ian can’t have the vaccination because it’s a live vaccine and all kids post-transplant are not able to have live vaccines ever, in their lifetime.”

Approximately 100 people in the Fraser Valley are now infected with the measles. The outbreak began at the Mount Cheam Christian School in Chilliwack during the first week of March. The school, which is governed by the Reformed Congregation of North America, is opposed to vaccinations.

On March 15, Fraser Health reported a BCIT student in Burnaby had been exposed to measles and two more cases were reported in Abbotsford and Chilliwack on March 19.

Dr. Lisa Mu, medical officer with the FHA, said earlier in the week that it’s likely they’ll continue to see the measles spread within the Fraser East communities [of Abbotsford, Mission, Chilliwack, Hope and Agassiz]. In large part due to the individuals that have been possibly exposed to measles, which the health authority has asked to stay at home, still being “out and about in the community.”

For Amanda, having people in the community refusing to vaccinate is scary as well as frustrating.

“It puts our family at risk, it puts other children that are immuno-compromised at risk and the elderly at risk,” Amanda says. “It’s, in my opinion, unnecessary. Vaccines are available for a reason and a purpose.”

Ian is one of several hundred B.C. children who have received transplants and are threatened by the outbreak.  Also at risk are cancer patients, infants and many others with suppressed immune systems.

While Amanda realizes vaccinations are everyone’s choice, she says she would like people who choose not to, ” to please think of kids and other people in the community who can’t fight things off.”

“It means the difference between life or death for these people.”

~ with files from Catherine Urquhart

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