Measles case in Manitoba worries parents of young children

A confirmed case of measles in Manitoba, as well as cases elsewhere in Canada, have some parents worried about the health of infants too young to get the measles vaccine.

Recent measles infections also revive debate over whether to vaccinate children

Confirmed case of measles in Manitoba, as well as cases elsewhere in Canada, have some parents worried about the health of infants too young to get the measles vaccine. 1:46

A confirmed case of measles in Manitoba, as well as cases elsewhere in Canada, have some parents worried that their infants, who are too young to get the measles vaccine, could be exposed to the virus.

A man in his 40s from the province's Interlake region was diagnosed with measles and hospitalized, health officials announced late last week.

Officials say they are trying to determine if anyone the man came into contact with when he was contagious may be infected.

The measles virus is passed through airborne droplets and direct personal contact. (U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention)
"This case is different in that it's locally acquired," Dr. Michael Routledge, the province's chief public health officer, told CBC News on Tuesday.

"This gentleman didn't travel anywhere outside of Manitoba, so he picked up his measles somewhere in Manitoba."

In addition to the Manitoba case, measles infections have also been reported in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Prince Edward Island.

Has link to Lockport School

The Manitoba measles case has a connection to Lockport School, as the Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority sent a letter to parents and staff warning them about possible exposure.

The health authority advised parents to keep their children at home until March 26 if they have not been vaccinated for measles.

School staff have also been advised to stay home until the 26th if they are not immune to measles.

It's currently not known how the measles patient is connected to the school.

Measles is spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes. An infected person can spread the virus from four days before the rash appears to four days after.

80% vaccination rate

Routledge said the fact the Interlake man was infected within the province makes the contagious airborne virus slightly more of a concern.

But with an overall vaccination rate of roughly 80 per cent in Manitoba, and given the province hasn't had a measles outbreak in at least 15 years, he said people should not panic.

"So [we're] cautiously optimistic that we're not going to have a lot more cases, but we won't know for a couple of weeks," Routledge said.

The possibility of a measles outbreak still worries parents like Becky Brown of Winnipeg, who says her nine-month-old daughter cannot get her measles vaccine until she's one year old.

"I have three months of worrying," Brown said.

"Even if it stays with one case and they manage to isolate it, you don't know who's been exposed and who else I'm coming in contact with, and I can't lock myself in my house for three months."

According to Manitoba Health, the last large outbreak of measles in this province occurred in 1986, with more than 3,000 cases.

From 2000 to 2009 inclusive, three cases of measles were reported, one in each of 2002, 2003 and 2004.

While scientific studies and court rulings have debunked a link between vaccines and autism, the issue remains contentious today.

Vaccinations are voluntary in Manitoba, meaning it's up to parents to decide whether their children should get vaccines.

Brown said there is no good reason for a measles outbreak to happen these days.

"I think it's somewhat reckless to not vaccinate your kids," she said.

"There's no reason for them to get sick with diseases that have essentially been eradicated because of, essentially, fear-mongering."


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.