New Brunswick

Measles outbreak in Saint John remains at 2 after suspected 3rd case tests negative

There are still only two confirmed cases of measles in the Saint John region after a suspected third case tested negative, the province's chief medical officer of health announced on Friday.

Unvaccinated students should stay home, says province's chief medical officer of health

Dr. Jennifer Russell, the New Brunswick chief medical officer of health, said people should call 811 for measles information and advice before rushing to an emergency department. (CBC)

There are still only two confirmed cases of measles in the Saint John region after a suspected third case tested negative, the province's chief medical officer of health announced on Friday.

Reports of a possible fourth case of the highly contagious disease at the New Brunswick Community College campus on Thursday proved to be incorrect.

"The case that they were talking about was the same case we were talking about," Russell said during a news conference in Fredericton. "There was confusion around that, and there's no confusion now."

The remaining two individuals with confirmed cases of measles remain isolated at home, Russell said.

Health officials have not released any information about the two infected individuals, citing privacy, but the cases are related.

The person from Kennebecasis Valley High School in Quispamsis, confirmed on May 13, was at the Saint John Regional Hospital's emergency department at the same time as the first confirmed case, announced on April 26.

That person had recently travelled to Europe and visited the Halifax Infirmary's emergency department on April 17 for unrelated symptoms.

Measles is transmitted through the air or by direct contact.

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

We've all been working very collaboratively to really make sure that we stay on top of this particular outbreak.- Jennifer Russell, province's chief medical officer of health

"I know New Brunswickers are worried and we hear you and we understand," said Russell.

"Our focus at this time is the Saint John region and for residents outside this region, information for immunization clinics will be announced at a later date once we have addressed the immediate outbreak."

Asked whether she's worried about more people in the region developing measles, Russell said officials are being proactive and transparent, informing the public about any confirmed or suspected case, who's considered at risk, what signs to watch for and what steps to take.

"The public health team, the regional health authorities, the health-care workers down in Saint John, we've all been working very collaboratively to really make sure that we stay on top of this particular outbreak" she said.

More immunization clinics

Immunization clinics for people who may have come into contact with the infected individual from KVHS either at Shadow Lawn during lunch on May 6 or at the John Cleese show May 7 at Harbour Station, in sections 26 or 27, and were born between 1970 and 1995, will be held next week.

The clinics will be held on May 22, from noon until 8 p.m. and May 23, from 10:30 a.m. until 8 p.m., at Exhibition Park at 37 McAllister Dr. People should bring proof of purchase from Shadow Lawn or the Cleese show, said Russell.

Public health is holding another immunization clinic at KVHS on Friday from noon until 6 p.m. for students, teachers and parents who may have been exposed to the infected individual at the school between May 6 and May 9 and don't have the recommended two doses of the measles, mumps, rubella, or MMR, vaccine.

Within three to seven days of a measles infection, a red blotchy rash usually develops on the face and then spreads to the rest of the body. (Submitted by Emmanuel Bilodeau)

That includes Grade 8 students from Harry Miller Middle School and Quispamsis Middle School and their parents who went on a tour of KVHS on May 8, confirmed Zoë Watson, superintendent of the Anglophone South School District.

About 500 teachers and support staff from 19 schools in Rothesay, Quispamsis, Belleisle and Hampton who attended a New Brunswick Teachers Association meeting on May 6 have also been "invited" to attend, she said.

At least 100 people were immunized during Thursday's clinic at KVHS.

'Enough' vaccines

Any students at those 19 schools who don't have the recommended two MMR shots should stay home, said Russell.

"In any outbreak situation, whether it's measles, whether it's whooping cough, whether it's chicken pox, the protocol is the same — anybody who hasn't been immunized would be told to stay at home during an outbreak setting … This is considered an outbreak."

Russell could not say how many people have been vaccinated since the first case was confirmed, but it will not protect anyone retroactively.

The province has "enough" measles vaccines to cover its regular immunizaton program for toddlers at 12 months and 18 months, and those affected by the Saint John region outbreak, she said.

"Any decisions about reordering in the future or catching people up at a later date who are outside this specific event, those conversations will happen after the fact."

Call 811 for information

Anyone who thinks they may have come into contact with one of the confirmed cases or is exhibiting symptoms of the measles is urged to call Tele-Care at 811, the province's free bilingual 24-hour information line to speak confidentially with a registered nurse.

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.

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.

The MMRV vaccine is free for babies aged 12 to 18 months in New Brunswick. Adults born in 1970 or later can receive a free vaccine if they haven't already had the recommended two doses. (CBC)

People who have already had the measles and those born before 1970 are considered immune.

Prior to 1970, there was no measles vaccine, so they would have been exposed to the virus and built up a natural immunity, said Russell.

In 1970, health officials began offering a measles vaccine, which is considered to be about 85 per cent effective against the virus.

In 1995, they added a second dose, which is considered nearly 100 per cent effective.

A dedicated phone line has been set up to help people check their immunization record — 643-6251.

With files from Rachel Cave

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