Measles immunization urged in wake of 2 confirmed cases

Health officials in Prince Edward Island say two confirmed cases of measles in the province should serve as a reminder of the importance of being immunized.

Siblings caught the disease; neither was immunized

Health officials in Prince Edward Island say two confirmed cases of measles in the province should serve as a reminder of the importance of being immunized.

Two school-aged siblings were hospitalized over the weekend with the disease. Health officials believe one teen caught the disease while travelling in Europe and it spread to a sibling. Neither were immunized against measles.

They've since been discharged from hospital.

"I do think it reminds people and it should remind all of us that we should be fully immunized and we should really think about that if we go to travel," said Dr. Heather Morrison, the chief public health officer for Prince Edward Island.

A 2011 measles outbreak in Quebec was the largest in North and South America since 2002. (CBC)

"It's not just to protect yourself but it's to protect the rest of your community and your family and those around you at the same time."

Public health officials are going through immunization records and contacting anyone at Bluefield Senior High School in Hampshire and East Wiltshire Junior High School in Cornwall who may be at risk.

Morrison said all known cases of measles in Canada since 1998 have originated from foreign travel.

She said P.E.I. has a high immunization rate so most Islanders are protected against the highly contagious disease.

"I'm still hopeful that we won't see spread," said Morrison.

The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends that children should get two vaccine shots against measles: one at 12 months as part of the measles, mumps and rubella shot, and a second dose at either 18 months or between ages four and six.

Schools on P.E.I. do not require students to be immunized, and a spokesman with the English Language School Board said there are no plans to change that.

"Public health has a system that tracks immunizations so the school board currently doesn't have a requirement to track immunizations," he said Tuesday.

Libby Matthews, who recently moved to the province from Ontario, said immunization records were mandatory in Ontario and she's surprised it's not the same in Prince Edward Island.

"You needed to have your child immunized by age six for certain immunizations and if you didn't then your child wasn't actually allowed back to school," she said.

"People think that that disease doesn't exist anymore. It's still there."

The Public Health Agency of Canada describes measles as a "highly infectious disease" spread through direct contact with an infected person, or through inhaling secretions from an infected person’s mouth or nose. It usually causes fever, runny nose, drowsiness, irritability and red eyes. It is fatal in about three cases per 1,000.

The agency said while measles remains a "serious and common" disease in developing countries, vaccines have largely eradicated it in the Americas. The last endemic measles case on record in the region was in 2002. Quebec experienced an epidemic of measles in 2011.