New Brunswick

Vet's Taxi users in Saint John area warned of possible measles exposure

People in the Saint John area who used Vet's Taxi during certain times last week may have been exposed to measles and should watch for symptoms of the highly contagious respiratory disease, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health announced Friday.

People who took a cab during certain times last week may have come into contact with 1 of 11 confirmed cases

People who took a Vet's Taxi during certain times last week are being advised to self-monitor for measles symptoms because they may have been exposed to the virus. (CBC)

People in the Saint John area who used Vet's Taxi during certain times last week may have been exposed to measles and should watch for symptoms of the highly contagious respiratory disease, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health announced Friday.

Dr. Jennifer Russell said anyone who took one of the company's cabs during the following times may have come into contact with the virus:

  • May 22, from 8 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.
  • May 24, from 9:40 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
  • May 25, from 2:45 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 6:40 p.m. to 9:10 p.m.
  • May 26, from 12:50 p.m. to 3:05 p.m.

The exposure is related to one of the 11 previously announced confirmed cases in the outbreak that began on April 26.

"Because measles is transmitted by respiratory droplets, those droplets can remain in the air for up to two hours after the person was in that vicinity," Russell said during a news conference in Fredericton.

Measles is also transmitted through direct contact with an infected individual.

"We're outside the 72-hour window when a dose of the [measles, mumps, rubella] vaccine would be effective to protect those people who were exposed during those times," said Russell.

So they're being asked to self-monitor for symptoms, which can take up to 18 days to begin.

Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health, said it's important people call Tele-Care before seeking medical attention so proper protective measures can be put in place to prevent measles from spreading. (CBC)

Early symptoms of measles may include fever, cough, runny nose, red or sore eyes, sleepiness, irritability and tiny white spots in the mouth.

About three to seven days after those symptoms start, the telltale red blotchy rash usually develops on the face and then spreads to the rest of the body.

Russell said Public Health just learned of the potential exposure risk.

"In different clinical scenarios, a comprehensive history is not always possible, so we provide the information as we get it," she said.

"Now, that cab company has many cabs, so the actual cab you might have been in probably may not have had the exposure to measles in it, but … as a precautionary advisory, we are giving this information to the public."

Anyone who does develop symptoms is urged to self-isolate and call Tele-Care, the province's health information line, for advice by dialing 811, she said.

"Do not go to go a clinic, physician's office or emergency room. You must contact Telecare 811 so that necessary measures can be put into place to prevent the spread to others."

The latest possible exposure is related to a confirmed case announced on May 27 that was linked to the Saint John Regional Hospital's emergency department.

People infected with the measles virus can be contagious about four days before the telltale rash appears until four days after. (Submitted by Emmanuel Bilodeau)

Passenger, not driver

Vet's co-owner Shelley Orr says the exposure is due to a passenger, not a driver.

She could not confirm if the person was picked up or dropped off at the hospital.

All of her drivers are feeling fine, she said. "None of them seem to have any concerns."

People born before 1970 are considered immune and anyone who has already had the measles is considered protected for life.

Orr said she isn't worried about any negative impact on business.

"I just hope that nobody else gets sick with this," she said.

The ER is where the outbreak began, after someone who had recently travelled to Europe visited several times over several days.

Other previously announced possible exposure times at the ER include:

  • May 19, 10:45 p.m. to 1:35 a.m.
  • May 22, 8 p.m. to 11:05 p.m.
  • May 24, 9:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
  • May 25, 3 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

No new cases of measles have been confirmed since late Tuesday, but health officials are expecting more.

More than 2,000 people have potentially been exposed either through the two ER-related cases or nine cases linked to Kennebecasis Valley High School in Quispamsis, according to officials.

No details about the infected individuals have been released.

One dose of the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine is about 85 per cent effective, while two doses offer about 97 per cent protection, according to health officials. (The Canadian Press)

Russell said 9,000 doses of the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine have been issued so far in response to the outbreak.

She could not say how many doses are left, but isn't worried about the province running out if more cases develop.

"As things evolve, we have access to vaccine" through a national repository system, she said.

But public health is reserving its supply of the vaccine for those considered most at-risk — people who have come into contact with a confirmed case and infants.

Anyone else will have to wait until the outbreak is over, said Russell.

The outbreak won't be declared over until two incubation periods — roughly 40 days — pass since the last confirmed case.

Measles can be more severe in infants and adults born after 1970. 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 miscarriage, premature labour, and low birth weight.

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