New Brunswick

460 teachers potentially exposed to measles at Kennebecasis Valley High School

Hundreds of teachers from numerous schools across the Anglophone South School District were gathered at Kennebecasis High School just days before someone at the Quispamsis school was diagnosed with measles, says the superintendent.

New Brunswick Teachers' Association branch meeting was held at Quispamsis school days before case confirmed

Anglophone South School District superintendent Zoë Watson says about 10 per cent of Kennebecasis Valley High School students don't have the recommended vaccinations against the measles. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

Hundreds of teachers from numerous schools across the Anglophone South School District were gathered at Kennebecasis High School just days before someone at the Quispamsis school was diagnosed with measles, says the superintendent.

About 460 teachers from Rothesay, Quispamsis, Belleisle and Hampton attended the local branch meeting of the New Brunswick Teachers' Association at the Quispamsis school on the evening of May 6, said Zoë Watson.

On May 13, public health announced the school had the second confirmed case of the highly contagious respiratory disease in the Saint John area in recent weeks.

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

Measles is transmitted through the air or by direct contact. People infected with the measles virus can be contagious about four days before the rash appears until four days after.

All of the teachers who visited KVHS last week have been notified and will be invited to attend an immunization clinic being planned at the school in the coming days, said Watson.

About 100 of the approximately 1,050 students do not have the two recommended doses of the measles, mumps, rubella and varicella, or MMRV, vaccine, she said.

A team of public heath nurses was at the school earlier this week to go through individual immunization records and found about 10 per cent of the student body did not have complete immunization, said Watson.

The nurses followed up with the parents of those students and found some of them do have full immunization, but their records are at their homes.

"So that's positive news," said Watson.

"Our ideal goal would be to have 100 per cent [vaccinated] and certainly as we get through this situation, I expect between Health and Education there will be more conversation."

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)

In New Brunswick, students must provide proof of immunization before starting school. Students who transfer from outside the province are also required to provide immunization records.

The Department of Education's Policy 706 does allow for exemptions from immunization for either medical reasons or personal objections, but only a "very small number go that route," said Watson.

In the event of a "significant outbreak," those students could be excluded from school, she said.

"We haven't reached that point."

The provision has been in place since the early-2000s and hasn't been used yet, according to Watson.

"But I will tell you there are ongoing conversations between the Department of Education and Department of Health about that policy," she added.

This person was at the emergency room at the same time as the first confirmed patient with measles. Zoe Watson is the superintendent with Anglophone School District South. 10:44

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, said the province's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Jennifer Russell.

Other potential locations people may have come into contact with the affected individual include:

  • Shadow Lawn Inn in Rothesay on May 6 during lunch.
  • The John Cleese show at Harbour Station on May 7 at 7:30 p.m., in section 26, rows 14-20 and section 27, rows 14-24. About 1,600 people attended.

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

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

Can be fatal

Anyone who believes they have symptoms should isolate themselves and seek medical attention, said Russell. They 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.

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

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 are considered immune, but some people born between 1970 and 1995 have not had their second shot, said Russell.

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

About 5,000 doses of the vaccine are available.

The last confirmed case of the measles in New Brunswick, in 2017, was a student at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton.

With files from Information Morning Saint John