New Brunswick

2 unconfirmed cases of measles in Saint John could bring total to 4

There are two unconfirmed cases of measles in Saint John, which would bring the total to four in recent weeks, if confirmed.

New Brunswick Community College issues advisory about a student, public health announces an unrelated case

Staff and students at the New Brunswick Community College in Saint John were notified Thursday about a possible case of measles at the campus. (Google Street View)

There are two unconfirmed cases of measles in Saint John, which would bring the total to four in recent weeks, if confirmed.

A New Brunswick Community College student is isolated at home with a possible case of the highly contagious respiratory disease, NBCC communications co-ordinator Tanya Greer said on Thursday.

It will be early next week before the college learns whether the student actually has measles, Greer said in emailed statement.

Public health has not been notified about that case but is dealing with another suspected case, said communications officer Alysha Elliott.

That individual is also isolated at home, said Elliott. Lab results in that case could be available as early as Friday, she said.

Immunization clinics

Measles is transmitted through the air or by direct contact.

People infected with the measles virus can be contagious about four days before the tell-tale rash appears until four days after.

On Thursday, public health held an immunization clinic at Kennebecasis Valley High School in Quispamsis, where the second confirmed case was announced on May 13. 

Health officials have not released any information about those two confirmed affected individuals, citing privacy, but the cases are related and both people are isolated at home.

Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health for the province, urges people to call Tele-Care at 811 for information and advice. (Radio-Canada)

The clinic, which continued into the evening and will resume on Friday, is only for students, teachers and parents who may have been exposed between May 6 and May 9 and don't have the two recommended doses of the measles, mumps, rubella and varicella, or MMRV, vaccine, said officials.

Additional clinics are being planned for next week for people who may have come into contact with the affected individual from KVHS.

That includes people who were at Shadow Lawn for lunch May 6 and the John Cleese event at Harbour Station on May 7 who were seated in Section 26 rows 14-20 and section 27 rows 14-24.

No need to panic

New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health said people should not panic.

"When people hear of measles and they hear the word 'outbreak,' of course that causes a lot of concern. We're concerned as health-care providers and we want to make sure that the public's protected," said Dr. Jennifer Russell.

"And from a public health perspective, the processes that are in place to protect people include making sure that people who are directly involved with the cases have been contacted, follow-up has been planned."

We don't really want the emergency departments to be flooded and overwhelmed with people who are worried about these symptoms, because, at the end of the day, there is no real treatment.- Jennifer Russell, province's chief medial officer of health

Anyone else who develops symptoms or has questions is encouraged to call Tele-Care at 811, she said.

"We don't really want the emergency departments to be flooded and overwhelmed with people who are worried about these symptoms, because, at the end of the day, there is no real treatment," only treatment to relieve symptoms and prevent complications, said Russell.

"Staying put at home is really not a bad idea because that means you're not spreading this very contagious illness."

Anyone who seeks medical treatment should call ahead before visiting their family doctor, clinic or emergency room so proper precautions can be taken to prevent others from being exposed, she said.

NBCC Saint John students and staff were notified Thursday about the possible case at the Grandview Avenue campus through a text message from regional operations manager Craig Jones.

"We will update students and staff as more information becomes available," said Greer.
This text message was sent to staff and students at the New Brunswick Community College Saint John campus on Thursday. (Submitted)

In the meantime, NBCC is directing students and staff to the public health website for information about measles prevention, she said.

Public health only learned about the NBCC case through the media, Elliott said Thursday night.

Although the province's chief medical officer of health spoke to reporters earlier in the day about a suspected case, it was not the NBCC one, said Elliott.

"We want to acknowledge that was not in relation to the rumour of a potential case at NBCC Saint John. We can only comment and take action on confirmed cases that are reported to public health," she said.

"Unsubstantiated rumours may interfere with management of real cases," she added.

Russell said the individual public health is monitoring has not yet developed the signature rash. "They were aware of the symptoms that could happen before the rash and so they obviously did notify somebody within the health-care system."

Measles symptoms, which usually begin within eight to 12 days after infection, may include fever, cough, runny nose, red or sore eyes, sleepiness, irritability and tiny white spots in the mouth.

Within three to seven days, a red blotchy rash usually develops on the face and then spreads to the rest of the body.

People infected with the measles virus can be contagious four days before the rash appears, until four days after, say health officials. (Submitted by Emmanuel Bilodeau)

The disease can be more severe in adults, infants and pregnant women. Complications can include ear infections, pneumonia, blindness and swelling of the brain, which can cause seizures, deafness, brain damage or death. If contracted during pregnancy, it can cause premature labour, miscarriage and low birth weight.

Adults born before 1970 and anyone who has already had  the measles are considered immune.

100 people vaccinated

About 100 people were immunized at the Kennebecasis Valley High School clinic during school hours Thursday, said Zoë Watson, superintendent of the Anglophone South School District.

"We had a bit of a lineup as we got set up this morning, but it's very, very smooth now," she said.

A team of 15 nurses and administrative staff from public health are hosting the clinic in the school's mini gym.

"They're doing a very thorough job and I think people are very grateful that we have the clinics set up," said Watson.

Zoë Watson, superintendent of the Anglophone South School District, said the immunization clinic at Kennebecasis Valley High School will continue on Friday. (CBC)

A review of immunization records earlier this week found about 100 of the approximately 1,050 students aren't fully immunized.

Watson could not say how many of the approximately 100 staff, including teachers, educational assistants, administrative assistants, bus drivers and custodians are immunized.

About 460 teachers from nearly 20 schools in Rothesay, Quispamsis, Belleisle and Hampton may have also been exposed.

They were at KVHS just days before the measles case was confirmed for the local branch meeting of the New Brunswick Teachers' Association, Watson said.

The affected individual at Kennebecasis Valley High School was at the Saint John Regional Hospital's emergency department at the same time as the first infected patient in April, health officials have said.