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Don't call 911 if you think you have the measles: paramedic

Last Updated Mar 1, 2019 at 4:07 pm PDT

(Source: iStock)

Emergency workers are concerned about a potential increase in calls to 911 about the measles

Call HealthLink BC 811 if you are concerned you may have the measles instead

No new cases of measles to report by Vancouver Coastal Health

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — If you call for an ambulance because you think you have the measles, emergency workers say you could end up making matters worse.

According to the BC Emergency Health Services, only a few people have called for an ambulance about the measles, but they’re concerned it could become a problem as a measles outbreak hits Vancouver, and more cases of measles are expected.

Calls to HealthLinkBC at 811 have spiked to as many as 500 per day since the Lower Mainland started recording an outbreak last month. That’s what people are supposed to do.

RELATED: Vaccinations way up amid Metro Vancouver measles outbreak

Rob MacMillan, a paramedic specialist with the BC Ambulance Service, says calling for an ambulance runs the risk of exposing countless others to the highly-infectious disease.

“The biggest reason is we don’t want to spread the measles. That is the biggest concern. It’s highly contagious. It spreads very readily,” he says. “Stay at home. Call your family doctor, again, because once we get out to the public, we’re just having that secondary exposure where more and more people could be affected.”

The measles virus stays in the air for up to two hours after an infected person has been in that area, and so paramedics would risk spreading the measles if someone who’s contagious is transported to an emergency room.

“That’s what we’re trying to eliminate, is that secondary exposure,” he says. “The initial symptoms are just like flu, so everybody’s in a bit of a panic right now. They don’t know.”

RELATED: BC Liberals demand more access to measles vaccine; health minister argues it’s already easily accessible

MacMillan, says thankfully, only a few people have called for an ambulance regarding the measles since we started hearing about an outbreak in greater Vancouver last month.

“We have seen a few calls with them coming through and that’s definitely what we do not want them to do. Do not call 911 for an ambulance,” he says. “We want them to stay at home.”

He says only call 911 if your’e experiencing shortness of breath or other life-threatening symptoms.

Meanwhile, measles-related calls to the HealthLink BC 811 information line have spiked, with numbers jumping to as much as 500 per day since mid-February.

No new measles cases to report

According to Tiffany Akins with Vancouver Coastal Health, there have been no new measles cases since the last two cases were reported on Wednesday.

The health authority also says it has received more vaccines, and will be getting more next week.

This comes after some areas, like Burnaby, were reporting a shortage of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.

– With files from Lauren Boothby