Measles Cases Surging Rapidly, Chief Public Health Officer Cautions

Image used for information purpose only. Picture Credit:

Canada is currently witnessing a surge in measles activity, with reported cases in four provinces in 2024. As of today, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has documented 40 measles cases this year, surpassing threefold the number of cases reported in 2023. Among these cases, seven individuals required hospitalization. The majority of measles occurrences in Canada affect unvaccinated individuals, particularly children. Some recent cases were linked to international travel, while others were contracted domestically.

Concerns persist regarding measles vaccination coverage among school-age children, as it may not be sufficiently high in certain regions to prevent further measles transmission. Measles is highly contagious, with an estimated 90% infection rate among unvaccinated or previously uninfected individuals in close proximity to an infected person. Moreover, measles is not merely a rash; it can lead to severe complications, including deafness, brain inflammation, and, in rare cases, fatality.

Vaccination remains the most effective means of preventing measles. I strongly urge parents and caregivers to ensure that children under their care receive all recommended measles vaccines according to their provincial or territorial vaccination schedule. Adequate supplies of measles-containing vaccines are available in Canada for those in need. If a child has missed any recommended measles vaccines, it is crucial to catch up on their vaccination schedule. Consult with the child’s healthcare provider or local public health department for guidance.

PHAC, in collaboration with provinces, territories, and other partners, recently conducted an assessment to evaluate the potential risks and impacts of measles in Canada. Such assessments facilitate public health planning and decision-making to enhance health outcomes for Canadians. The assessment concluded that the risk of measles transmission from infected travelers entering Canada remains high. Consequently, there is a possibility of community transmission and outbreaks in educational settings, healthcare facilities, and communities with low vaccination rates. Infants, young children, immunocompromised individuals, and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to serious illness from measles.

Individuals who have received two doses of a measles-containing vaccine or have had a previous measles infection face a very low risk of contracting measles in Canada. Two doses of a measles-containing vaccine are nearly 100% effective at preventing measles infection and are recommended for children, adolescents, and some adults in all provinces and territories.

If planning to travel outside of Canada, consult with a healthcare provider or local public health department at least six weeks before departure to determine if additional doses of a measles-containing vaccine are necessary.

If you suspect exposure to measles and have not been adequately vaccinated, isolate yourself and promptly contact your healthcare provider or local public health department for guidance. Refrain from travel and gatherings if experiencing measles symptoms, which typically include fever, red eyes, runny nose, cough, and a red rash.

Seek immediate medical attention if measles symptoms develop, ensuring arrangements to prevent further transmission.

No one should endure serious illness from a vaccine-preventable disease like measles. Help mitigate the spread of measles in Canada by ensuring you and your family receive recommended measles vaccines.

Read More: Click Here