City weeks away from declaring measles outbreak over

Hamilton public health officials won’t declare the city’s current measles outbreak over until April 25 at the earliest — and that’s only if no new cases are reported before then.

Virus has incubation period of up to 21 days, Hamilton public health doctor says

Officials say the woman was not showing the rash seen in this stock image. (CBC)

Hamilton public health officials won’t declare the city’s current measles outbreak over until April 25 at the earliest — and that’s only if no new cases are reported before then.

A local adult tested positive last week for the virus, public health department said on Sunday. The woman’s case is related to two others in the Hamilton area, the city said a day later.

Though no additional cases have been reported to the city, public health officials are still weeks away from declaring the outbreak over.

Dr. Hamidah Meghani, Hamilton’s medical officer of health, said the city won't call off its warning until 30 days after the last confirmed case was reported.

Health officials became aware of the Hamilton woman’s case on March 26. Thus, the city will deem the outbreak over on April 25 if no new cases come up before then.

People who have received two doses of a measles vaccine or have been infected with the virus in the past are not at risk. (Canadian Press)

That’s because the measles virus has an incubation period of up to 21 days, Meghani said, meaning an infected person could go weeks without becoming ill.

“Most people who get the measles start to see symptoms 10 to 14 days after they get exposed,” she said.

In addition, early symptoms resemble those of the flu or a severe cold. It’s often not until a telltale rash presents itself that an infected person begins to suspect he or she has the measles.

This means that several more people in the Hamilton, Halton and Peel regions may develop the measles in the coming weeks. 

Before the woman in the most recent case was diagnosed with the measles, officials said, she visited a number of establishments in Hamilton, Burlington and Mississauga and may have inadvertently exposed others to the virus.

People who have received two doses of a measles vaccine are not at risk, nor are individuals who were infected in the past.

International travel

The woman’s case is among a trio of related measles infections in the Hamilton area. In early March, Hamilton Public Health reported a case of a man who likely contracted the virus while travelling in the Philippines, said Meghani. 

That case spawned two more, including one in Halton and the Hamilton woman who was diagnosed with the measles last week.

Meghani said the Hamilton outbreak of the measles, a once-common childhood disease that had been virtually eliminated in Canada by the late-'90s, is unusual.

Most Canadians under the age of 36 have received two doses of a measles vaccine, while many over 55 are immune to the virus because they were exposed to it as children. 

However, the virus is still endemic in many countries outside of North America and western Europe.

“What we’re seeing now is because of travel and people not having up-to-date immunizations, there is a risk of people developing the measles,” she said. 

"That’s what’s really bringing it into the Canadian context.”

Signs and symptoms

A bad cough, runny nose, fever, sensitivity to light and red-watery eyes are symptoms commonly associated with a case of the measles.

About four days after infection, a rash starts at the face and moves down the body. White spots may appear inside the mouth.

The virus spreads easily to people who aren’t immune. Infants under a year of age, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems can get particularly ill.

Complications can include ear infections, pneumonia, croup and brain inflammation

Public health officials in Hamilton, Halton and Peel continue to investigate and warn that people who visited the following locations at certain times may have been exposed to the measles: 

Saturday March 22, 2014:

  • Skyzone Indoor Trampoline Park, 3636 Hawkestone Rd., Mississauga, 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • The Queen’s Head pub, 400 Brant St., Burlington, 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Sunday March 23, 2014:

  • Mill Street & 5 American House, 324 Dundas St. E, Waterdown, 1 a.m. to 2 a.m.
  • Milestones Restaurant, 1200 Brant St., Burlington, 7 p.m. to midnight

Monday March 24, 2014:

  • Canada Post office, 17 Main St. N, Waterdown, 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Boston Pizza, 4 Horseshoe Cr., Waterdown, 5:15 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Tuesday March 25, 2014

  • Joseph Brant Hospital, 1230 North Shore Blvd., Burlington, 7 p.m. to 9:30 a.m. on March 26
  • Joseph Brant Hospital, 1230 North Shore Blvd., Burlington, 3:30 p.m. to midnight

Wednesday March 26, 2014:

  • Lakeside Variety store, 721 Beach Blvd., Hamilton, 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
  • Walmart, 90 Dundas St. E. Waterdown, 2 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.

Thursday, March 26

  •  Joseph Brant Hospital, 1230 North Shore Blvd., Burlington, 11:15 p.m. to 2 p.m.

People who visited these locations at the specified times, and have never received two doses of a measles vaccine and have never had the measles before, are asked to call the public health office in their region: 

  • Hamilton Public Health Services at 905-546-2424 ext. 7970 for Hamilton residents
  • Halton Public Health at 905-825-6000 for Region of Halton residents
  • Peel Public Health at 905-799-7700 for Region of Peel resident


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