Montreal

Did you visit Parc Safari last Friday? Health Ministry warns of possible measles exposure

Public health authorities in Quebec are worried there may be more cases of measles on the way, after the 18th case this year of the highly contagious disease was diagnosed in Laval Sunday.

Laval resident is 18th person to contract measles in 2019, and public health authorities worry more on the way

Parc Safari is one of several locations that Quebec's 18th measles victim visited while that person was still contagious last Friday, possibly exposing others to the virus. (Parc Safari)

Public health authorities in Quebec are worried there may be more cases of measles on the way, after the 18th case this year of the highly contagious disease was diagnosed in Laval Sunday.

Dr. Yves Jalbert, a senior provincial public health official, is urging all Quebecers to make sure they have been vaccinated against the virus. 

Jalbert said a Laval resident was participating in a summer camp and visited a pool in Laval, as well as Parc Safari in Hemmingford, near the U.S. border, while still contagious.

"We hope that this chain reaction will stop there," said Jalbert. "But considering the situation in the whole world right now, yes, we expect a few more cases during the next year." 

Parc Safari exposure worrisome

Jalbert said the visit to Parc Safari was particularly worrisome because the campers visited the feline tunnel, which he said is "pretty long, pretty closed, not that well-ventilated." 

He said in such an enclosed space, the virus can linger in the air for more than two hours after the person has left, exposing others.

The campers also ate their lunch outdoors, possibly coming into contact with other Parc Safari visitors.

Joanie Lamoureux, director of education and animation at Parc Safari, said park officials learned about the incident Tuesday morning and have since taken all necessary precautions.

"There was a risk last Friday for a very short period of time, but that risk is no longer there," Lamoureux said. 

Park employees wash out the feline tunnel daily and make sure everything is clean, she said. 

She said 10 of the park's employees may have been exposed on Friday, and they are in touch with health authorities to make sure they have taken all possible measures to prevent the spread of infection.

The park also checked in with veterinarians to make sure their animals are not in any danger from having been exposed to the virus.

Other exposure locations 

The possible exposure took place at the following locations at these specific times:

  • McDonald's (2895 de la Concorde Blvd. E.) in Laval on July 12 from 6:15 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

  • Parc Safari on July 12 from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

  • Pharmaprix (1768 des Laurentides Blvd.) in Laval on July 11 from noon to 1:30 p.m. 

  • Jean Coutu (2065 des Laurentides Blvd.) in Laval on July 11 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. 

  • St. Vincent pool and the women's changing rooms at Centre de la Nature in Laval on July 10 from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

You can consult the full list of locations on the ministry's website.

Jalbert said anyone who may have been exposed to the measles should pay close attention to their symptoms, in order to try to limit the further spread of the virus.

Call Info-Santé if you think you were exposed

In total, there have been 18 cases of measles in the province this year, with six of those cases in Laval and seven in Montreal.

That compares to only four cases last year and none in 2017.

Those at high risk includes babies less than a year old, people with weakened immune systems and women who are pregnant and haven't been vaccinated. 

The preventive vaccine needs to be administered within seven days of exposure to the virus. 

It can take up to two weeks for measles symptoms to appear, and up to three weeks in people with weakened immune systems. 

The first signs of the measles are a high fever, cough, runny nose and red, watery eyes, followed within a few days by red blotches, usually starting on the face and neck.

Anyone concerned about possible exposure is asked to call Info-Santé by dialling 811, and, if necessary, they will be referred to the nearest clinic where they can be evaluated and get treatment.

Latest outbreak began in June

This latest case is the eighth stemming from a single outbreak in June, when a Laurentians resident contracted the measles on a trip to the United States. That resident had visited Laval upon returning and spread the disease to both the Laurentians and Laval, according to the Health Ministry.

"It's all imported cases or contamination from these imported cases so far. So we would like to see people asking to have their vaccinations completed before they go to other countries," Jalbert said.

"When you have  95 per cent of your people vaccinated, you basically limit your chances of outbreaks. It's what we call herd immunity." 

Jalbert said that less than 95 per cent of the population is vaccinated in Quebec, although he does not blame the anti-vaccination movement that has contributed to what the World Health Organization says is a 30 per cent increase in measles cases, globally.

"We don't see this anti-vaccine movement as being that big in Quebec," he said. "We see a lot of people who are not totally opposed to vaccinations but who are somewhat unaware or undecided, and this is the aspect that we would like to address right now."

Jalbert said people born before 1970 are considered immune from the disease, but those born after 1970 should check if they've received all doses of the vaccination. If they aren't sure, patients can call their local CLSC or physician to find out. 

With files from CBC's Franca G. Mignacca and Radio-Canada

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