Ontario mother says anti-vaccination parents put her son at risk
Marlene Leung, CTVNews.ca
Published Wednesday, April 2, 2014 9:26AM EDT
Recent measles outbreaks in several different Canadian provinces have two Ontario parents concerned for their son, who couldn't get the measles vaccination due to a health condition.
Mallory Olsheski's son, Riley, had a heart transplant in 2012 when he was just five months old. Because the transplant left Riley's immune system in such a fragile state, he wasn't able to get the measles vaccination, she said.
She said that the measles outbreaks across the country, including four cases in the Ottawa region where she lives, pose an increased risk to her son.
"Exposure to measles and contracting the measles can be deadly for him," she told CTV's Canada AM. "So it's very scary to think that he's at such risk for something that was originally eradicated in this country."
Since the start of 2014, there have been measles outbreaks in Western Canada, the Prairies and Ontario, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. The agency issued a warning last week that there have been a higher-than-usual number of confirmed cases since the start of the year.
On Tuesday, Ontario public health officials confirmed that there have been 11 cases in the province, all of which are directly or indirectly related to travel overseas.
And in British Columbia, public health officials are contending with an outbreak of about 320 cases in the Fraser Valley East region.
The B.C. outbreak is believed to have first occurred in a Christian elementary school in Chilliwack. Parts of the region have low vaccination rates, with some community members choosing not to vaccinate their children for religious reasons. On Tuesday, the provincial ministry of health said the outbreak had been largely contained.
Olsheski said she "takes issue" with people who don't vaccinate their children due to non-medical reasons.
"I believe that these people need to be educated and informed, they should ask questions," she said. "They should take time to speak to physicians and health units."
Measles is a highly contagious infectious disease that can have serious side effects including diarrhea, fever, pneumonia, infections of the brain and even death. Symptoms of measles begin to appear after seven to 18 days after infection, and can include fever, drowsiness, red eyes and the development of a blotchy rash. Public health agencies across the country stress that immunization is the best protection against the measles.
Olsheski said that since learning of the outbreaks, she's changed her son's daily routine, especially given all the time he spends in health clinics.
"He's got many appointments and these are at medical facilities… and there are always a lot of children around," she said.
"So these children and people are walking around looking healthy on the outside, and on the inside they (may be) brewing this deadly disease. And they're in contact with my child and children like him. It's dangerous."
She said the family now stays home more often, which has been hard on her two-year-old son.
"We don't take him out often and it's sad for him because he's very social. He loves to move around and run around and be busy. So it's limiting for him," she said.