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.
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.”
Stay home if you think you have #measles and definitely don't call 911. Front-line emergency workers are worried about containing latest #LowerMainland outbreak. They also don't want emergency-only phone lines getting clogged up with nuisance calls. @NEWS1130 pic.twitter.com/c0t86ecpWU
— Marcella Bernardo (@Bernardo1130) March 1, 2019
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.”
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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.”
And a reminder from @BC_EHS: if you think you have the measles please stay at home. Call your doctor's office. Contact the Public Health Team. More details here https://t.co/kJWO6ZY2A7 https://t.co/biFu89e5nH
— Sonia Aslam (@SoniaSAslam) February 27, 2019
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