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Measles outbreak in Canada: Experts say public may not be fully vaccinated


Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Tuesday, April 8, 2014, 2:52 -

Flu season is in full swing in Canada, with measles being reported in B.C., all three prairie provinces and Ontario.

By March 31, an estimated 320 cases had been documented in B.C., but by early April the B.C. Ministry of Health announced  the outbreak had been "largely contained."

In Ontario, Hamilton's public health department has confirmed three cases of the virus and -- over the weekend -- health officials confirmed that an infant from Abu Dhabi had also tested positive.


RELATED: Get the Health & Flu report for your community


Adults who thought they were immune appear to be getting sick, leading to speculation that childhood vaccinations may eventually wear off for some people.

"There's sort of a ticking time bomb here: how many of these people exist, we don't know, and who they are, we can't identify them," Dr. Brian Lichty, associate professor in the division of molecular medicine at McMaster University, told Postmedia News.

Doctors believe that the "vast majority" of Canadians who were immunized as children are protected from measles -- particularly those who have received two doses of the vaccine.

"Measles can be prevented by immunization. Immunization of all children is recommended at 12 months of age as part of a combined vaccine containing measles, mumps and rubella (MMR); with a second dose at either 18 months or at 4 to 6 years of age," says Canada's Public Health Agency

The agency recommends one dose of the MMR vaccine for the majority of adults born in 1970 or later.

A single dose of the vaccine is considered to be between 85 and 95 percent effective, while a second dose elevates immunity to nearly 100 percent.


RELATED: B.C., Ontario see spike in measles cases


Measles is highly contagious, with symptoms typically appearing one to two weeks after infection. Complications can include diarrhea, pneumonia and brain infections.

In severe cases, measles can result in death.

SYMPTOMS

  • Prolonged fever
  • Coughing
  • Red eyes
  • A rash
  • Sensitivity to light

In many cases, the virus will run its course with little complications. Pregnant women, people with suppressed immune systems, children and the elderly are most susceptible. 

PREVENTION

  • Wash your hands
  • Check with your doctor to ensure you are fully vaccinated
  • Contact your local public health department if you think you have come into contact with the virus

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