Measles are back! Thought to be almost eradicated in North America, the virus has once again reared its ugly head.
An increase in measles is being experienced world-wide, including more than 250 cases in Quebec. Eleven confirmed cases of measles in Ontario this year is higher than expected, prompting the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to request enhanced surveillance among healthcare providers.
Measles is a virus that causes a runny nose, cough, conjunctivitis (pink eye or inflammation of the eyelid), high fever and rash. A red, blotchy rash appears on the face and spreads to the rest of the body, lasting about 4 to 7 days.
Measles is highly contagious and spreads easily to others when an infected person talks, coughs or sneezes. It takes about 10 days to develop this disease after being in contact with the virus. Serious complications can include pneumonia, swelling and infection of the brain, and sometimes death. In 2010, measles claimed the lives of an estimated 164,000 children world-wide.
Fifty years ago the virus affected almost every Canadian and was a leading cause of blindness, deafness and brain damage. Since the introduction of the measles vaccine in 1963, the disease was thought to have virtually disappeared in Canada. However, with recent outbreaks stemming from individuals who were not fully immunized, focus again turns to prevention through vaccinations.
In Ontario, measles vaccine is available in a combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) as part of the publicly funded Ontario vaccine schedule. Infants routinely receive measles immunization at 12 and 18 months of age.
Grey and Bruce has excellent measles coverage rates with 97 per cent of children aged 7-17 years receiving measles vaccine compared to Ontario’s rate of 93 per cent. Two doses of the vaccine are needed for adequate protection. It’s important to remember that many other countries have high rates of measles; anyone travelling to these countries can be at risk if they are not adequately vaccinated.
MMR vaccine is not recommended for females who are pregnant or expecting to become pregnant within the next month or those who have weakened immune systems.
The only way to ensure protection against measles is to be immunized. If you are unsure about your immunization status, contact your healthcare professional or Public Health.
For further information, or to book an appointment to receive your free measles, mumps, rubella vaccine, speak with your healthcare provider or contact Public Health at 519-376-9420 or 1-800-263-3456 or visit our website at www.publichealthgreybruce.on.ca.
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