A few months before summer break, the Public Health Agency of Canada advises citizens to ensure they are well immunized against measles, especially if they plan to travel abroad.
Dr. Theresa Tam, interim Chief Public Health Officer, noted that people who have not been vaccinated or who have not been exposed to the disease as a child should apply for the vaccine. Those who are not sure of their immune protection should also seek the advice of their doctor.
For those who should be vaccinated, inoculation should be done at least six weeks before leaving the country, said Tam.
The head of public health explains that many European countries are struggling with an outbreak of measles, a highly contagious infectious disease that is transmitted even in the air. In Romania, for example, almost 2,000 cases of measles have been recorded since February 2016. Of the 17 children who died, none were vaccinated.
Moreover, the rate of vaccination is declining in some Central and Eastern Europe countries, a phenomenon primarily attributable to a social media campaign against vaccinations.
In Canada, no cases of measles have been reported from purely local sources since 1997. Canadians who are not vaccinated may contract the disease abroad or from visitors to Canada. These infections can then cause an outbreak in an area where people are not all vaccinated, as was the case in 2015 in Lanaudière, Quebec, where almost 200 people were infected.
Dr. Tam reported that 10 cases of measles – all related to travel – have been reported in Canada since the beginning of the year. Three of these cases, confirmed last month by the Toronto Public Health Directorate, are related to people who arrived in Canada or traveled on WestJet or Emirates aircraft in the last two weeks of March.
The incubation period for the measles virus can reach 21 days, and the first symptoms may appear as early as the first week. The person with the virus can also be contagious before the first symptoms appear.
Measles is manifested by high fever, runny nose and cough. Redness in the face and on the body, including the palms of the hands and feet, occur afterwards. Infected persons will also be affected by ambient light and experience eye pain with tearing.
Public health officials recommend consulting a physician if these symptoms occur – but pre-warning the clinic or emergencies so that isolation measures are taken as soon as the patient arrives.