Four new cases of measles have been confirmed in the Calgary area on top of the one announced last week, a higher than average rate for Alberta, which saw only one case in all of 2009.
Alberta Health Services (AHS) announced last week that a child in the Calgary region was diagnosed with measles. Three of the new cases are connected to that case, but the fourth is not, said Dr. Judy MacDonald, Calgary's medical officer of health.
Friday's cases bring the total in the region to five in the past two weeks. In 2009, only one case of measles was confirmed province-wide.
AHS said Friday it is following up directly with individuals who might have been in close contact with any of the five people.
At this point, MacDonald said, there's no need to issue a warning to the general public who might have come into contact with the cases.
"These individuals … are isolated while they are infectious so there should be no further exposures," MacDonald said. "But measles can still be circulating out in the community. And we've got these four linked cases, but we've got this fifth case. There may be other cases out there."
Eight other people around the province are being isolated while they get tested for measles, MacDonald said.
"Clearly, we are seeing a higher-than-average number of measles cases in Alberta at this time," said Dr. Gerry Predy, AHS medical officer of health. "Although we are currently seeing this increase in the Calgary area, measles is a highly contagious disease, and we must be proactive to prevent further spread."
"We strongly encourage all Albertans to ensure they are up to date with all immunizations, including the MMR vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella."
Watch for fever, rash, runny nose
AHS urged Albertans to monitor their health for symptoms of measles, which include fever of 38.3° C; cough; runny nose or red eyes and 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, spreading down to the body, and finally to the arms and legs.
If symptoms develop, individuals are requested to contact HealthLink Alberta immediately and avoid all contact with others.
Alberta Health Services is urging those who wish to book an appointment to receive the MMR vaccine to call their local community health centre or public health office. For more information about measles and the vaccine itself, call HealthLink Alberta. In the Calgary-area the number is 403-943-LINK (5465); in the Edmonton-area it's 780-408-LINK (5465) or, outside the local calling area, toll-free at 1-866-408-LINK (5465).
Measles is a highly contagious and infectious disease caused by a virus that is spread easily through the air. Individuals who have not already had measles or have not been vaccinated against measles are at highest risk for developing the disease, AHS said.
The MMR vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella, is part of the routine childhood immunization program in Alberta. Children in Alberta typically receive their first dose of MMR vaccine at 12 months of age and their second dose between the ages of four and six years. Both doses are required to be fully protected.
Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsible for planning and delivering health support and services for more than 3.7 million adults and children living in Alberta. Its mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans.