Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games visitors brought measles to B.C.

By  | 

University of British Columbia researchers have attributed the 2010 measles outbreak in which 84 cases of measures were recorded to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games.

The study, published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, which happens to be the largest measles genomics project to date saw researchers from the University of British Columbia and the B.C. Centre for Disease Control use genetic sequencing to trace the 2010 measles outbreak.

Lead author Jennifer Gardy, assistant professor with the UBC School of Population and Health and a senior scientist with the B.C. Centre for Disease Control revealed that there were two visitors in 2010 with each bringing one genotype of measles with them. Gardy and team found that the two different strains of the virus, D8 and H1, were brought into the Vancouver area during the Olympics.

This lead to the first cases of measles in the province since 2007. Gardy added that their analysis revealed that all the measles cases in northern B.C. arose from a single introduction, likely along Highway 97.

Gardy’s team used whole-genome sequencing to track the outbreak, an approach they pioneered four years ago when analyzing TB outbreaks.

“With whole-genome sequencing we’re looking at 100 per cent of the genome,” said Gardy. “We can find mutations that appear in different people and use these mutations to figure out who infected whom. In the past we’d only look at about three per cent of the measles genome and we’d miss these mutations.”

The province has continued to experience regular measles outbreaks since 2010, but the strains introduced during the Olympics have gone away. In 2014, there were more than 400 cases reported in the Fraser Valley.

“If we have access to more genomic DNA from samples in the future, we might be able to build better maps of how measles outbreaks start and spread,” said Gardy. “Thankfully, we already know how to stop them, which is to get immunized.”