Vietnam potential source of Canada measles outbreak

By Phan Anh   February 19, 2019 | 01:17 am PT
Vietnam potential source of Canada measles outbreak
A doctor checks on a child with measles. Photo by Shutterstock/fotohay
An ongoing measles outbreak in Vancouver, Canada, might have originated in Vietnam, the Canada Broadcasting Corporation has reported.

It quoted Vancouver resident Emmanuel Bilodeau as saying three of his sons contracted the disease after a family trip to Vietnam earlier this month.

He said he believed one of his sons first contracted the disease in Vietnam, it then spread to his siblings and from them, in the schools they attended.

As of last Friday, Vancouver was facing a measles outbreak after eight confirmed cases among students, staff and parents were diagnosed in three different schools in the city, said Dr. Althea Hayden of the Vancouver Coastal Health Department.

Bilodeau added that he and his wife hadn’t vaccinated their children against the disease because they were influenced by reports that linked the MMR vaccine, said to prevents measles, mumps and rubella, with autism.

"We were worried 10-12 years ago because there was a lot of debate around the MMR vaccine," said Bilodeau. "Doctors were coming out with research connecting the MMR vaccine with autism. So we were a little concerned."

He insisted that he and his wife weren’t against vaccination and know now that the link between MMR vaccine and autism has been debunked by leading health institutions like the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"We're just very cautious parents and we just tried to do it in the manner that was the least invasive possible on the child's health."

Measles is a seasonal epidemic in Vietnam, especially in colder months, and victims are mostly unvaccinated children. Hanoi reported 192 measles cases this year, up almost 10 times the same period last year. Saigon also experienced outbreaks in the last few months, overloading some of its leading public hospitals.

The WHO says that the number of measles cases increased significantly last year, with around 229,000 diagnoses compared to 170,000 in 2017.

The agency added that actual figures could increase due to reporting delays and late outbreaks at the end of the year.

"We’re backsliding on the progress that has been made, not because we don’t have the tools, but because we’re not vaccinating," said Dr. Katherine O’Brien, Director of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals with the WHO.

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