Confirmed measles case in Lethbridge prompts AHS alert

A confirmed case of measles in Lethbridge has prompted Alberta Health Services to advise of potential exposures.

Symptoms of measles include fever, cough and red, blotchy rash

A confirmed case of measles in Lethbridge has prompted Alberta Health Services to warn of potential exposures.

AHS is in the process of contacting people who are not immunized against the disease and who have been identified as immediate contacts with the infected person.

However, people don't need to have had close contact with an infected person to catch measles because it is airborne and extremely contagious, AHS says. 

"We are asking all potentially exposed individuals to monitor their health for symptoms of measles disease," said Dr. Vivien Suttorp, AHS's medical officer of health for Alberta's South zone. "These individuals must continue to watch for symptoms of measles through November 4, 2013."

Symptoms of measles include fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes, as well as a red, blotchy rash that appears three to seven days after the fever starts.

The rash typically begins behind the ears and on the face, before spreading down the body and finally to the arms and legs.

There is no cure for measles, but it can be prevented with vaccination.

There has been debate over the last decade over the perceived risks of vaccinating against measles, as some suggested the vaccine could be linked to autism.

In 2010, the original study suggesting a link between the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine and autism was retracted and Health Canada says there is considerable evidence to refute the claims that the vaccine could cause autism.

"This case is a reminder of the importance of vaccination," said Suttorp. "We are seeing outbreaks of measles around the world, and whether you're travelling yourself or staying at home here in Alberta, there's an increased risk of being exposed to measles and other vaccine-preventable illnesses."

Anyone with symptoms of measles is advised to avoid contact with others and call HealthLink Alberta, or see a doctor as soon as possible before heading to a clinic or hospital. 

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