Call Info-Santé before inundating clinics over fear of measles, Montreal specialist says

Montreal health authorities are working with local clinics and hospitals to prevent a possible measles outbreak, but where people can go if they’re worried about being infected or in need of a booster shot isn’t being made public.

Clinics ready to help patients in need of inoculations, boosters or medical care in wake of rubeola exposure

Measles has appeared in Montreal's West Island, but the city's public health authority is urging people to stay calm, but vigilant. (Vernon Bryant/The Associated Press)

Yes, Montrealers, measles is in town, but don't panic. Unless it's a medical emergency, call Info-Santé before showing up at your local clinic or hospital with questions or concerns.

That's what Montreal's public health authority is saying after another two cases of measles cropped up within city limits — this time spreading from patient to health-care worker and sparking worry across the island.

Montreal public health is now working with several clinics and hospitals to prevent a possible outbreak of the highly contagious, potentially fatal disease.

People are being told to call Info-Santé by dialling 811, and, if necessary, they will be referred to the nearest place where they can go for evaluation and treatment.

Montreal public health says that, so far, only a few people have been taken in for treatment.

The locations of the measles clinics are not being made public.

"We're not making that information publicly available because there is a limited capacity," said Eric Litvak, medical chief of infectious diseases with Montreal public health.

"We're asking people to call Info-Santé. Info-Santé has all the required information."

People may be confusing simple allergy or cold symptoms with the disease, or may simply be seeking information about vaccinations and booster shots, Litvak said.

Info-Santé staff are on call around the clock to help prevent clinics from being bombarded by fear-struck patients in search of unneeded inoculations or treatment, he said.

Exposure spurs Montreal public health to action

This effort to maintain calm comes after Montreal public health officials announced Thursday that it is trying to track down anyone who may have been exposed to the the disease in one of six locations — most of them in the West Island — last week.

Between 200 and 400 people could have been exposed from May 11 to 14 in Montreal, according to rough estimates by the public health authority. Officials have posted specific locations and times where an infected person was during that timeframe.

The locations include a school, a restaurant, a bank, a beauty salon, a hotel and a daycare centre.

Montreal public health officials were at the daycare Friday, where they vaccinated two people and took in another for preventive treatment.

"The daycare has been handling everything wonderfully," said Deborah Levy, whose child attends the daycare.

"What I've heard is that most children were already vaccinated." 

Dr. Mylène Drouin, director of Montreal public health, is urging people to pay close attention to the dates, times and locations posted on the authority's website to determine if they were exposed to the infected patient. She said they should seek treatment if they were exposed.

Litvak said the concern is primarily with people who are not vaccinated and there are certain groups who could be at greater risk of complications.

"So those would be children below the age of one, pregnant women or anyone with a weakened immune system," he said.

He said those people will receive antibodies that will inoculate them from the disease temporarily.

However, getting the measles vaccine is essential to ensure you're protected in the long term.

"Vaccines are safe, they're effective, and everything we're discussing could be avoided if everyone was vaccinated," Litvak said.

Seven cases since beginning of year

Since the beginning of the year, seven cases of measles have been reported in Montreal, but the first five involved exposure to the disease outside the country.

Authorities say, this time, two secondary cases were identified in which people contracted the disease after coming into contact with someone infected outside the country.

One involves a child infected by a family member who was first infected outside the country. The situation was controlled by isolating the family for the necessary time period.

The measles vaccine is the most effective way to avoid contracting measles, science has shown, but anti-vaccination movements have lead to outbreaks of the deadly disease. (CBC)

The second case involves a member of the health-care staff who treated the child. While the worker was vaccinated against measles, authorities said it was one of the rare cases where the vaccine didn't provide the expected immunity.

"​Every case of measles is an outbreak for us because we have to stop the chain of transmission," Drouin told reporters Thursday afternoon.

"But we are more preoccupied by these two cases because we see that there's a transmission, and of course, we need to find those contacts really rapidly."

With files from Jay Turnbull, Sudha Krishnan, CBC Montreal's Daybreak and The Canadian Press


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