New Brunswick

Confirmed case of measles in Saint John, public health warns

A person in Saint John who recently travelled to Europe has become the province's first confirmed case of measles since 2017, public health announced Friday.

Infected individual recently travelled internationally, says chief medical officer of health

Three to seven days after getting the measles, a person will get a red blotchy rash, first on the face and then spreading to the body, arms and legs. (Submitted by Emmanuel Bilodeau)

A person in Saint John who recently travelled to Europe has become the province's first confirmed case of measles since 2017, public health announced Friday.

Department officials are working with local health-care providers to contact people who may have been exposed to the individual with the serious and highly contagious respiratory disease, which is transmitted through the air or by direct contact.

That could include people who visited the Saint John Regional Hospital's emergency room or X-ray/CT department during the following days and times:

  • April 18, 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. (and X-ray/CT)
  • April 19, 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. (and X-ray/CT)
  • April 21, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • April 22, 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • April 22, 6:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.

Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province's chief medical officer of health, is urging anyone who was potentially exposed to check their immunization record. Most people are protected with two doses of the measles, mumps, rubella and varicella, or MMRV vaccine.

Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health, said vaccination is the best way people can protect themselves and others against the measles. (Joe McDonald/CBC)

"Make sure that if you're going to go to a clinic or hospital call ahead, so they can put precautions in place to protect other patients," Russell said in an interview.

She said the Saint John case was confirmed Friday, and the patient is isolated at home. 

"Once public health knows of somebody who's been exposed, they do a risk assessment to figure out what the next steps would be," she said.

Need to seek help

Adults born before 1970 are considered immune.

Anyone who believes they have symptoms consistent with the measles should isolate themselves and seek medical attention, said Russell.

If people have symptoms, or suspect their vaccines aren't up to date and they've been to the Saint John hospital at those times, they must let their health-care provider or 811 know before visiting a clinic or hospital.

Early symptoms of the measles 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 will appear, first on the face and then spreading to the rest of the body.

Can be fatal

Symptoms usually begin within eight to 12 days after infection.

Most people are sick for up to 10 days and are contagious from four days before the rash develops until four days after.

There is no cure for the disease. Treatment is meant to relieve symptoms and prevent complications.

Measles is diagnosed through blood and urine tests and swabs of the nose and throat.

The virus can be more severe in adults and infants, said Russell.

Complications can include ear infections, pneumonia, blindness, and swelling of the brain, which can cause seizures, deafness, brain damage or death.

If the virus is contracted during pregnancy, it can cause premature labour, miscarriage and low birth weight.

One case two years ago

The last confirmed case of the measles in New Brunswick, in 2017, was a student at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton. That case was linked to an outbreak in Nova Scotia.

There have been 41 cases of the measles across Canada so far this year, most of them associated with travel to countries with current measles activity, public health officials said.

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 two doses.

No other information about the infected person has been disclosed, including their sex, age, why they were at the hospital, whether they had been vaccinated, or how long they were abroad. Health officials cited confidentiality.

Once someone has had the measles, they are considered protected for life.

With files from Hadeel Ibrahim