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Measles in Canada: What you need to know

Canadian Living
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Measles in Canada: What you need to know

Vaccine bottle with a needle This week there were multiple confirmed cases of measles in Canada. Ottawa has two confirmed cases after a child picked up the disease in the Philippines. British Columbia's Fraser Valley has two confirmed case s as well, with approximately 100 more suspected cases. People start to feel panicky as soon as they hear about measles in Canada because the disease can be fatal. The disease is very contagious and can spread through the air when a person with measles breathes. Measles can also be transferred if you share food, drinks or close contact with a person infected. We talked to Dr. Monika Naus, the medical director of Immunization Programs and Vaccine Preventable Diseases at the BC Centre for Disease Control. She explained that the outbreak in Fraser Valley is around Chilliwack, in the communities where many people have not been vaccinated against the disease. And the measles found in that community actually originated from the Netherlands. We asked Dr. Naus some questions about what Canadians need to know about measles in Canada. Do Canadians need to be worried? Canada is considered as having ‘eliminated’ measles by the Pan American Health Organization. That means that we no longer have sustained transmission of measles in the country. However, importations will continue to occur, and some outbreaks will last longer than others. Communities and individuals who are unvaccinated are at the highest risk of measles. If someone thinks they have come in contact with measles what should they do? They should call their local health department and have their immunization record in hand. If they have not been fully vaccinated, the health department may recommend specific preventive treatment which must be given quickly in order to prevent measles illness.  If they become ill with symptoms compatible with measles, they should call their physician, let him/ her know about their illness and suspicion of measles, and ask to be seen at the end of the day to avoid infecting other patients in the waiting room. Specific tests for measles diagnosis will be done; these are simple and don’t require a blood test. How can Canadians ensure they won’t get measles? Make sure you are fully vaccinated. For most people that means two doses of measles containing vaccine, which is the recommendation for everyone born in 1970 and later. Travelers to destinations especially outside of the Americas who are born after 1956 should also have two doses of measles vaccine; this includes babies 6 months and older. Older adults who were born before 1957 are generally considered immune due to having had measles infection in the past. However, anyone without a history of measles infection should be immunized, and two doses are required for complete protection. The vaccine is given as measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. It is a live virus vaccine and only a small proportion of people who are seriously immunocompromised cannot be vaccinated with this vaccine. Click here for more information on Measles. ©istockphoto.com/RidvanArda
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Measles in Canada: What you need to know

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