A private St. John's clinic is vaccinating people against measles before they leave Newfoundland and Labrador so they won't bring the disease back with them.

So far this year, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Manitoba have reported cases of measles.

The most common symptoms are severe rash and high fever, but it can be fatal in extreme cases.

There are no current cases of measles in Newfoundland and Labrador. Stacy Fowler, the nurse manager with the Jema International Travel Clinic, said health professionals would like to keep it that way.

stacey fowler

Stacey Fowler is the nurse manager with the Jema International Travel Clinic in St. John's. (CBC)

"It's highly contagious and contact with a person who is carrying the measles virus would be a concern," she told CBC News.

Doctors attribute the outbreaks partly to the fact that some people failed to get their children vaccinated when they should have. But some people are also more susceptible to the disease, such as those born between 1970 and 1983 who did not receive booster shots.

They would be at higher risk of contracting the disease when they travel to areas with outbreaks.

"It's not impossible ... especially when we have that under-immunized age group that would be working in places like Alberta, and they could potentially bring measles with them when they travel back here," Fowler said.

The Jema Travel Clinic in St. John's has been busy vaccinating people who fall into that category.

The vaccine is free when supplied by the province, but the clinic has been administering it at cost when there's been a shortage.

Fowler suggested the province may step up efforts to provide booster shots if there's reason to do so.

"They may — if we see an increase in cases here in the province — be offering some extra clinics if there is extra need or concern."

Monitoring situation

Eastern Health said it's watching the situation closely for any signs of cases in the province.

Measles is most often transmitted through simple coughing, but the danger is that someone could be infected without knowing it.

Anyone born before 1970 should be immune, since they likely had measles through a natural infection. But anyone born after that is urged to make sure they've had two doses of the vaccine.

Measles affects the skin, respiratory and immune systems. Symptoms usually develop seven to 14 days after exposure to an infected person, with initial symptoms including high fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, a hacking cough, runny nose and red eyes.

That's followed by a spot-like rash that can cover most of the body for up to 10 days, as long as there are no complications.