In a statement issued earlier this week by the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, it was announced that there has been an increase in cases of measles. 

“Measles is a highly contagious airborne virus that can cause serious disease. Over 90% of people who are not immune to measles and who come into contact with the virus will become infected. Infection can lead to severe complications, including deafness and brain damage caused by inflammation of the brain, and can be fatal,” says Public Health Canada. 

The rise in measles cases initially sparked concern in 2023 and continues into 2024 due to the decline in measles vaccinations during the pandemic. 

On the Public Health Agency of Canada's website, it states that “The World Health Organization (WHO) reported a 79% increase in the number of global measles cases in 2023 compared to 2022. While cases can occur anywhere in the world, there has been a notable recent increase in European regions.” 

An increase in cases of measles occurs when an individual who is not fully vaccinated has traveled to or from a country where measles is going around. 

“Imported cases can lead to the subsequent spread of measles in Canada among unvaccinated or under vaccinated people.” 

As of last week, Public Health Canada has been made aware of six measles cases in the country. Some of whom have required hospitalization. 

“Most of these cases involved unvaccinated or under vaccinated children who have traveled internationally,” it states on the Public Health Canada website. 

Initial symptoms of measles include a fever, red watery eyes, runny nose, and cough followed by a red rash starting on the face that moves to the rest of the body.

People at the highest risk of measles complications include children under 5, adults older than 20 years of age, pregnant people, and immunocompromised people. 

According to the 2021 Childhood National Immunization Coverage Survey, 91.6% of Canadian 2-year-olds have received at least one dose of a measles vaccine. But only 79.2% of 7-year-olds had received two doses. 

“The best protection against measles is vaccination with two doses of a measles-containing vaccine, which are almost 100% effective at preventing infection. The first dose is usually given to children at 12 months. The second dose is usually given at 18 months of age or between 4 and 6 years old,” Public Health Canada said. 

Local pharmacy owner at Strathmore Value Drug Mart, Gordon Morck, says that if you have completed your full vaccination series, you are protected. 

“The measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine work well, so if people and their children have been fully vaccinated, then they don't need to worry. But a lot of people are choosing not to vaccinate children, and that's why we are seeing these outbreaks,” Morck said. 

If you are unsure if you are vaccinated against measles and want to find out, Morck suggests calling 811 and having your Alberta healthcare number ready because they can look it up. You can also stop by your local pharmacy or make an appointment with your doctor, and they can check your electronic health record. 

“Measles is very serious if you get it as an adult, and that is why it is important to get your children vaccinated,” Morck said. 

Currently, pharmacies are unable to administer the MMR vaccine. It is only available through a public health clinic. 

In town, you would have to go to the Strathmore Public Health Office (650 Westchester Road) to receive a measles vaccination. 

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