08/08/2013 09:00 EDT | Updated 10/08/2013 05:12 EDT

Abbotsford newborns exposed to measles, officials warn

Thirty newborn babies and their mothers might have been exposed to measles after someone with a measles rash walked onto the maternity ward of Abbotsford hospital on Thursday, officials with the Fraser Health Authority say.

Newborns are too young to be vaccinated against the disease, which is airborne and highly contagious, said Fraser Health’s chief medical health officer Paul Van Buynder.

The illness is extremely dangerous, and in one in 3,000 cases, it can be fatal.

Fraser Health is warning people in Abbotsford to get vaccinated against measles, adding that in some areas nearby , vaccination rates are close to zero.

“There are groups in Fraser East who don't believe in immunization and that they are likely to share this disease, given the likelihood that they will get measles at this moment,” Van Buynder said.

“If you get sick in the next few weeks, please don't visit our hospitals or out areas where there are large groups of vulnerable people at risk,” he added.

The symptoms of measles include fever, cough, runny nose, and watery inflamed eyes, and small red spots with white or bluish white centers in the mouth.

Then a dusky red, blotchy rash begins on the face and spreads all over the body on the third to seventh day of illness, lasting for four to seven days. Anyone with symptoms should see a doctor.

According to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control the last significant measles outbreak occurred in 2010 in British Columbia when 82 case were confirmed after the Winter Olympic Games held in Vancouver.

- Read about the 2010 outbreak

That was the largest measles outbreak in B.C. since 1997 when 247 cases were reported.