Measles scare sends students and staff home at Lower Mainland school

Fraser Health sent warning letter about the highly contagious infectious disease.

A case of measles at Maple Ridge secondary during the first week of the new school year had five staff members and 37 students still absent this week.

A student with measles attended on the first day of school, prompting Fraser Health to send a warning letter to staff and students about the highly contagious infectious disease, which can result in serious health complications.

Public health nurses were at the school again on Monday working through the list of students and staff to ensure the entire school has immunization, explained Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district spokesperson Irena Pochop.

Students and staff at the school have been told to check their immunization records and were offered measles-mumps-rubella immunization shots at a free clinic at the school all day on Sept. 7.

Of the 130-plus staff working at MRSS, including teachers, support staff, custodial, casual and clerical staff, there were four teachers and one education assistant medically excluded.

The education assistant has since returned to work. The teachers will be able to return on Sept. 26.

The district deployed four teachers and one education assistant float to cover the absences.

In terms of student numbers, there were 37 students, in a school of close to 1,300, medically excluded pending serology results. The blood examination will take anywhere between one and three days to come back, and two of the excluded students had already returned to school on Thursday.

“If the serology results show a student is protected, that student can immediately return to school. We anticipate that the vast majority of these students will be able to return to school once the test results come in,” said Pochop. “To support any medically excluded students, we have deployed an additional three teachers to liaise between the students and their teachers.

“We want to thank MRSS families and staff for their patience, and the public health nurses for their diligence and hard work.”

Measles symptoms generally develop 10-12 days after exposure to an infected person, and last seven to 10 days. Symptoms include high fever, often greater than 104 C, a cough, runny nose, inflamed eyes and a red rash.

Complications from the disease are serious, including inflammation of the brain, pneumonia and blindness, according to the World Health Organization.

Unvaccinated children under age five are at highest risk. Before the introduction of a measles vaccine in 1963, it caused an estimated 2.6 million deaths worldwide.

The first year the number of measles deaths fell below 100,000 was 2016, with 90,000 measles deaths globally.

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