Measles cause concern at BCIT

Students at BCIT returning to classes in the NE1 building on Monday were met by posters on the doors with an ominous message about possible exposure to the measles.

On Friday the school was advised by Fraser Health that a student with a case of measles related to the current outbreak in the Fraser Valley was at the Burnaby campus March 6 and 7 to write exams in NE1, which is also known as the Inglis building.

Dave Pinton, BCIT's media relations coordinator, said 126 students and two faculty members may have been exposed to the sick student on those days. He said they've all been contacted with individualized emails advising them of their risk and the precautions they should be taking.

Those include staying isolated at home until March 29 if they don't have documented immunizations, were born before 1970, or didn't previously have the measles. Everyone else should be immune from the disease, said Nafisa Abdulla of Fraser Health.

"We think actually that immunization rates among these students would be about 85 per cent," said Abdulla. "The risk to the general BCIT population is low."

Measles is very contagious and can spread very quickly if people aren't vaccinated, said Dr. Paul Van Buynder, Fraser Health's chief medical officer.

It spreads through the air when an infected person breathes, coughs or sneezes. The virus can survive in small droplets in the air for several hours.

Once the health authority learns of a case, public health nurses contact the patient to track their movements while they were infectious. People who may have been exposed to the sick patient are then called to see if they have symptoms and they're offered a vaccine if  they're not up to date on their immunizations.

Pinton said the school takes it on good faith that students and faculty know whether they've got immunity and to follow Fraser Health's recommendations.

"We're not stopping them and checking for documentation," said Pinton.

Still, a general advisory was sent by email to all students at BCIT's Burnaby campus, as well as staff and faculty, advising them of the outbreak and potential risks. Notices were also posted on the doors of NE1, as well as to the school's website and on social media. Pinton said over those two days there were about 14,600 students at the Burnaby school, plus 2,000 staff and faculty.

Pinton said the number of people potentially exposed to the disease probably stayed so low because last week was spring break when no classes are scheduled. He said there was no notable decline in attendance on Monday, the first day back of regular classes.



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