Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) officials say the city is facing a measles outbreak, and have now confirmed nine cases.
The health authority said eight of those cases were linked to three French language public schools in the city, and centred around École Jules‐Verne Secondary.
“Cases are occurring in staff, students and family members associated with the school,” said medical health officer Dr. Althea Hayden.
Hayden said one of the people infected with measles visited the emergency room at B.C. Children’s Hospital, and that VCH has not been able to notify all people that have been exposed.
Anyone who was at the hospital within the following time periods and feels sick should contact a doctor, she said.
- Jan. 21 — 10 a.m. to 6:10 p.m.
- Jan. 23 — 4:45 p.m. to 11:10 p.m.
- Jan. 24 — 8:13 a.m. to 11:40 a.m.
- Feb. 1 — 2 p.m. to 6:55 p.m.
Officials have confirmed cases at École Jules‐Verne and École Rose des Vents. Another suspected case is being investigated at École Anne‐Hébert.
Students at École Jules‐Verne and Rose des Vents may not attend school without proof of immunization.
“We require when there’s measles circulating, as it is, we require people to have proof of immunity to attend school,” she said.
WATCH: Online petition calls for mandatory vaccinations in schools
“We take the idea of asking children not to attend school extremely seriously, and we are doing everything in our power to minimize both the number of children affected and the amount of time that they are out of school.”
Measles is highly infectious, and can spread through the air. Close contact is not needed to contract the disease, though people can also get it by sharing food, drinks, cigarettes or kissing someone.
Symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes, followed several days later by a rash that starts on the face and spreads to the body.
It can cause serious complications ranging from pneumonia through to brain damage and death.
VCH says with the growing number of cases, the risk of transmission is now elevated.
The outbreak has refocused the spotlight on vaccinations in B.C. VCH data shows that of 127 schools in Vancouver, just 27 have kindergarten measles immunization rates above 90 per cent.
One Maple Ridge mother has started a petition calling for mandatory vaccinations for students attending public schools.
WATCH: CDC reports U.S. measles outbreak surges to 101 cases, kids of anti-vaxxers get shots
“There are members of our community that have intentionally chosen not to immunize their child, I know that those reasons are complex,” said Hayden.
“But again, I think in moments like this its a great opportunity to revisit the reasons you made that decision and think about getting your child vaccinated.”
Speaking at an announcement for the new St Paul’s Hospital on Friday, Health Minister Adrian Dix echoed that sentiment.
“It is, I think the responsibility for people to ensure that their children are vaccinated, the facilities are there to do that, and we need to encourage everyone to do that.
Two doses of the measles vaccine is effective in 99 per cent of the time, and the majority of new cases are in people who were born after 1970 and have had just one or no doses, VCH said.
The agency said people born between 1970 and 1994 or who grew up outside B.C. may have only had a single dose.