Recent measles outbreaks on Ontario and British Columbia have sparked concern over the condition as well as low vaccination rates across Canada. British Columbia has reported about 12 cases so far this year. While 12 cases may not seem like a lot, typically 0-2 cases of measles occur in BC. While Southern Alberta hasn’t had any confirmed cases of measles this year, Calgary had a confirmed case in a toddler in July of this year. While rates haven’t started to rise dramatically yet, it is likely only a matter of time before we begin to experience the same outbreak unless we do something to stop the outbreak from happening.
Why the sudden increase in cases? Declining vaccination rates are resulting in outbreaks of infections in children that we haven’t seen for years. Alberta Health Services has a target of vaccinating 98% of children to ensure optimum protection from infectious diseases. However, in Southern Alberta in some small communities vaccination rates have fallen to as low as 70% putting infants and young children at risk of contracting measles and other vaccine preventable illnesses.
What are measles?
Measles are an infection of the respiratory system caused by a virus. Because the infection is viral, antibiotics do not work in the treatment of measles and treatment is supportive. Symptoms include rash, cough, runny nose, eye irritation and fever. Most people will recover on their own, however in some cases measles can lead to ear infections, pneumonia, seizures, meningitis, brain damage and yes, can be fatal.
Are measles contagious?
Measles are more contagious than almost any other infection. The virus that causes measles lives in the nose and throat of infected people and is sprayed into the air when an infected person sneezes, coughs or talks, and can stay in the air for up to two hours. People with measles can spread the disease starting four days before the rash begins until four days after it appears.
How can measles be prevented?
If you were born after 1970, the only way to prevent infection with the measles virus is to become vaccinated.
Who should be vaccinated against measles?
- All children should receive a vaccination to protect them from measles at 12 months, followed by a booster at age 4-6 years.
- If you were born after 1970 and haven’t been vaccinated against measles.
If you were born before 1970, you are considered immune and do not need vaccination.
To book an appointment for your infant to be vaccinated at the Lethbridge Community Health Center call 403-388-6666. For more information on measles and measles prevention speak with your pharmacist or doctor today! Don’t delay, get vaccinated today!