No treatment for highly infectious measles, says doctor

10 cases of measles confirmed in Vancouver as of Friday

Eight cases of measles have been confirmed in Vancouver. (Contributed)

You’ve seen the headlines, you’ve read the comments and you’ve watched the hysteria build.

Dr. Monika Naus, medical director of the Communicable Diseases and Immunization Services at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, explains exactly what the big deal is.

“There’s no treatment for measles, so if you get measles it’s your own body that has to cure you,” said Naus.

Measles is a virus, so antibiotics don’t work. According to Naus the most modern medicine can do for you is aid in the healing, but your body has to tackle the infection itself.

READ MORE: Two more measles cases confirmed in Vancouver

READ MORE: Unvaccinated teens seek measles shot in wake of Vancouver outbreak

“If your lungs are full of measles virus and you’re in respiratory failure you can be put on a ventilator,” said Naus. “If you have a brain infection with measles … they can give you steroids to reduce swelling – but essentially it’s up to you to cure yourself.”

Measles is a highly infectious virus spread through airborne transmission making it that much easier to contract.

“You don’t need direct contact. You don’t need to be sharing spit, kissing, sharing – it’s airborne, so it’s that much more infectious.”

Because measles can spread so easily in susceptible populations it can cause exceedingly high numbers of cases.

“When you have high numbers of cases, you also wind up with a high number of cases with complications,” said Naus.

Measles can infect any part of the body and serious infection occurs when the virus spreads to a person’s lungs or brain.

READ MORE: Eight cases of measles confirmed in Vancouver outbreak

According to Naus there is debate around how fatal measles is, but it’s estimated from North American data about one in 300 cases result in death.

In 1996 Canada adopted the measles elimination goal as part of the Pan American Health Organization because it was recognized increasingly that measles elimination was achievable.

“We do get imported cases, sometimes a visitor or a Canadian returning from overseas and most of the time there’s no onward transmission if people around them are vaccinated,” said Naus. “If they go into a group of people with susceptible individuals that’s when we see transmission.”

According to Naus measles is still a big problem worldwide, particularly where children are malnourished coupled with little available treatment the virus is still killing hundreds of thousands of children worldwide.

Naus said while it is achievable to eliminate measles, it requires a demand from the public to be vaccinated and prevent the disease from spreading.

“There are people who believe that general health, eating nutritious foods and exercising is sufficient,” said Naus. “Yes – all those things help your immune system but they don’t provide you with specific immunity.”

The recent outbreak has been limited to a small group of schools in Vancouver and according to Naus there haven’t been anymore reported cases since Valentines Day.

“The incubation period for measles is up to 21 days so we won’t know whether there will be any additional cases until about the 7th of March,” said Naus.

For more information on how you can get vaccinate to protect against to measles virus visit immunizebc.ca/finder



kendra.crighton@blackpress.ca

Follow us on Instagram
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Construction for new $6.6 million Lake Country Firehall to start this summer

District councillors voted to approve funding for project back in 2018

Racist incidents on the rise in the Okanagan as coronavirus spreads

UBCO professor not surprised by recent incidents

Kelowna man charged after naked driver leads RCMP on hit-and-run spree

A Kelowna man has been charged with numerous offences

BREAKING: Surrey man pleads guilty on first day of West Kelowna murder trial

Tejwant Danjou is charged with second-degree murder in the July 2018 death of Rama Gauravarapu

Rhonda Zakala: Strengthening the foundations of the Kelowna community

She is the VP of fund development and marketing for the YCMA Okanagan

Protecting privacy key to stopping spread of COVID-19, B.C. health officials say

The number of coronavirus cases in B.C. remains at seven

Fire crews battle large blaze in West Kelowna

Reports of multiple structures on fire in the Colleen Road area

From seed to salad: Providing purpose for Okanagan inmates

“I planted every one of these, it makes me feel good, they’re like all my little babies.” - inmate Kim

Toffoli scores OT winner as Canucks beat Habs 4-3

Demko makes 37 saves for Vancouver

Private clinics would harm ‘ordinary’ people using public system in B.C.: lawyer

Health Minister Adrian Dix announced in 2018 that the government would begin to fine doctors $10,000

B.C. terminates contract with hospice society refusing assisted death

Delta Hospice Society loses hospital service fund of $1.5 million

‘Die!’: Vernon councillor mailed death threat

This story contains information that might be sensitive to some readers

Most Read