The highly contagious measles virus has spread from Chilliwack, located near the U.S. border, to Burnaby, a city just east of Vancouver.

The infected student, who is related to an infected child living in Chilliwack, exposed Burnaby classmates to the virus, CTV Vancouver reported.

The unnamed student attended examinations at British Columbia Institute of Technology on March 6 and 7, though the measles diagnosis was not made public until March 15.

BCIT has informed 128 individuals that they may have been exposed to the virus, but there haven't been any more confirmed cases, the school's Media Relations Coordinator Dave Pinton told CTV Vancouver on Monday.

The outbreak was first reported on March 8, nearly 100 kilometres away at the Mount Cheam Christian School in Chilliwack, a community with traditionally low immunization rates due to religious beliefs.

By March 13, the outbreak had spread beyond the religious community, and approximately 100 confirmed cases were diagnosed in Chilliwack and nearby Agassiz, CTV Vancouver reported.

The only ways to curb the illness are isolation and vaccines, Dr. Paul Van Buynder, Chief Medial Health Officer with Fraser Health told CTV Vancouver.

"Certainly there's now the potential that we will start to see cases broadly across the Lower Mainland. It depends really on how much immunity the children who were in that (school) had at the time," Van Buynder said Saturday.

In the past week, measles cases have been reported in Winnipeg, California and New York City. Van Buynder said the disease is rebounding due to misunderstandings about vaccination and travel to countries with high rates of the virus.

Symptoms of measles

The measles virus is very contagious and can be serious for those without immunizations, according to Fraser Health's website.

The virus spreads through the air when an infected person breathes, coughs or sneezes. Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Red and inflamed eyes
  • Rash starting on the face and neck, then spreading (lasts at least three days)

Other complications include pneumonia, and although it is uncommon, those who contract the virus may develop brain inflammation or damage, blindness and deafness. Approximately one in 3,000 cases is fatal.