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Vancouver's Olympic Games Brought Measles Via 2 Visitors

Jul 10, 2015 06:33 PM EDT
Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games
After the 2010 Olympic Games, Vancouver and the province of British Columbia were left with a bad case of the measles. Scientists did genomic sequencing and traced it to two visitors.
(Photo : Flickr: John Wicke)

After the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games, the province of British Columbia had a bad case of the measles. Scientists have now traced that outbreak to two individual visitors.

That's what University of British Columbia (UBC) and B.C. Centre for Disease Control researchers say in their study published this week in The Journal of Infectious Diseases. They used genetic sequencing to trace the line of the outbreak.

"In 2010, we had two visitors, probably from separate parts of the world, who each brought one genotype of measles with them," said lead author Jennifer Gardy, assistant professor with the UBC School of Population and Public Health and a senior scientist with the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, in the release. "With DNA sequencing, we were able to track how those genotypes spread around the province - something we couldn't easily do before."

This was the largest measles genomics project to date, and the scientists performed DNA sequencing for 27 measles viruses, the UBC release said.

They found that two strains, D8 and H1, arrived in Vancouver -- less heralded and brightly outfitted than the athletes--during the Olympics. These sparked the first cases of measles since 2007. In total, 82 cases of measles were recorded in March and April 2010, according to the release.

The genomic data showed that the measles cases in the northern part of the province came from a single introduction, likely along one particular highway.

 "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 in the release. "Thankfully, we already know how to stop them, which is to get immunized."

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