Alberta health officials are warning the public of possible measles exposure after a second case of the highly contagious disease in the Edmonton area was confirmed on Saturday.

'From a public health perspective we feel kind of sad because this is preventable. It is completely preventable.' - Dr. Marcia Johnson, Edmonton's medical officer

"We have recognized a case in a child who was travelling from the Philippines to Vancouver and then on to Edmonton," said Dr. Marcia Johnson, Edmonton's medical officer, at a press conference Saturday afternoon.

Passengers and crews on Air Canada flight AC 248 departing from Vancouver at 8:30 p.m. on April 9 and arriving in Edmonton at 9:35 p.m. may have been exposed, Alberta Health Services said in a release earlier on Saturday.

People who were at the Edmonton International Airport between 9:35 p.m. on April 9 and 2 a.m. on April 10 may also be at risk, AHS said.

Those who have not already had measles or those who have not been vaccinated may be at risk, AHS also said.

They are advised to monitor themselves for symptoms of measles, which include:

  • Fever of 38.3 C or higher.
  • Cough, runny nose and/or red eyes.
  • A red, blotchy rash that appears three to seven days after fever starts, beginning behind the ears and on the face and spreading down the body and then to the arms and legs.

Those who notice possible symptoms are asked to stay home and call Health Link Alberta at 1-866-408-5465 before visiting a clinic.

'Extremely contagious'

Johnson said she couldn't release information about the age of the child, or if the child was a resident or a visitor to Canada.

The child didn't require hospitalization and is now recovering at home, according to Johnson.

She also said she didn't know how many passengers were on the Vancouver-to-Edmonton flight. Efforts may be made to obtain a passenger list and contact those people directly, she said, but she noted such efforts could take time and health officials wanted to issue their warning as quickly as possible.

"Measles is extremely contagious. It spreads through the air. You just have to be walking through an air space where a person with measles has walked through within two hours and you can be exposed to measles," Johnson told reporters.

"Every single measles case that develops is a spark to expose other people."

There is no treatment for the disease, but it can be prevented through immunization, AHS said.

15 cases in Alberta

Johnson said measles cases this year are a result of lower immunization rates and worldwide outbreaks.

"In this day and age these diseases are global. And thus you really have to protect yourself with vaccines against diseases even though they might be relatively rare here. They're just a plane ride away," Johnson said.

"From a public health perspective we feel kind of sad because this is preventable. It is completely preventable."

Johnson said it was fortunate that the child passed through the terminal at a time when it wasn't particularly crowded.

"In some ways it's kind of good that it was so late at night and early in the morning. I don't know if you've ever gone to the airport for a 6 o'clock flight but it's really busy at that time," she said.

Saturday's confirmation is the second case of measles in the Edmonton area this year. The first case of measles was confirmed earlier this month and AHS is asking people who visited two west Edmonton businesses in late March to watch for symptoms.

The confirmation brings the total cases of measles in Alberta to 15.

With files from The Canadian Press