Measles Cases Cause For Concern in Canada

Measles cases in Whistler and Pemberton spur vaccine discussions

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Preventable diseases can still be big threats to public health. Measles is one such disease. Though the condition can be avoided, it can still spread and cause major health problems.

New cases of measles in Canada are putting health officials on high alert.  This has led public health departments in these areas to remind the public about the importance of vaccines. 

"Ask your doctor about the measles vaccine. "

According to Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), a division of the Provincial Government of British Columbia, four cases of measles have been identified in the communities of Whistler and Pemberton.

Measles is highly contagious and spreads through the air. They can cause a variety of complications.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), measles causes ear infection in an estimated one out of 10 childhood cases and pneumonia in about one out of 20 cases.

In more serious cases the measles can lead to encephalitis, or swelling of the brain, in an estimated one out of 1,000 childhood cases. Death occurs at a rate of around one or two out of 1,000.

In a statement released by VCH, Paul Martiquet, MD, Medical Health Officer with VCH, urged the public to check their vaccination status.

"We are advising everyone in Whistler and Pemberton to ensure they are fully immunized against this highly contagious infection," said Dr. Martiquet.

"Two doses of measles vaccine are highly effective at preventing measles. Most new cases occur in people who have had no or only one dose of the vaccine," he said.

According to VCH, two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) have been routine for children born in the province of British Columbia since 1994.

"Those born before 1970 are likely to be immune to measles," reported VCH. "However, if they are not certain that they ever had the infection, an MMR vaccine is safe and recommended."

The US CDC reported that, while measles is rare in regions of the world with high vaccination rates, it still causes an estimated 20 million cases and 164,000 deaths annually across the globe. 

Dr. Martiquet noted that British Columbia's position as a tourist destination may play a role in the measles outbreak.

"Whistler has many international visitors and residents who may not have had the same vaccinations as those from British Columbia, and in some cases come from countries that are experiencing measles outbreaks," said Dr. Martiquet.

Early symptoms of measles include runny nose, cough, fever and red eyes. The disease often develops with a red rash all over the body.

Dr. Martiquet stressed the highly infectious nature of this airborne disease, which can be spread through breathing, coughing or sneezing.

"You don’t have to be in close contact with someone to contract the infection," said Dr. Martiquet. "You could spend just a few minutes in the same room as someone and get it, though, the closer the contact, the higher the risk."

VCH urged anyone with a fever and rash to isolate themselves and call their doctor's office before visiting. By doing so, steps can be taken to prepare for the patient's arrival and help control the spread of the disease.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 15, 2013
Last Updated:
July 29, 2013