New Brunswick

Case of measles in Saint John prompts flurry of calls

No new cases of measles have been reported in New Brunswick since one was announced in Saint John last Friday, but health officials have been busy fielding calls and one person has been referred to a hospital for followup.

No new cases reported, but 1 person referred to hospital for followup

People with measles may be contagious from four days before the red blotchy rash develops on their face and body until four days after. (Submitted by Emmanuel Bilodeau)

No new cases of measles have been reported in New Brunswick since public health announced a confirmed case of the serious and highly contagious respiratory disease in Saint John last Friday.

But the advisory about the infected person, who recently travelled to Europe, has prompted a flood of calls, according to Bruce Macfarlane, a spokesperson for the Department of Health.

Tele-Care, the province's free, confidential, health advice and information line, has fielded at least 66 measles-related calls.

One caller was referred to a hospital for followup, he said.

The majority of the 811 calls were from people seeking information.

No new information about the confirmed case in Saint John has been released, but Nova Scotia health officials announced over the weekend that the person visited the Halifax Infirmary's emergency department for unrelated symptoms on April 17 before going to the Saint John Regional Hospital ER.

The person, who is now isolated at home, was communicable at the time, Nova Scotia Health Authority's public health division said.

Measles is transmitted through the air or by direct contact. People may be contagious from four days before the rash develops until four days after.

"Often the most infectious periods of measles is before the classic signs and symptoms appear," said Macfarlane.

Are you at risk?

Patients and visitors to the Halifax Infirmary ER on April 17 from 12 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. may have been exposed and may develop symptoms in the coming days, according to health officials.

Anyone who visited the Saint John Regional Hospital's emergency room or X-ray/CT department during the following days and times could also be at risk:

  • 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.

Symptoms usually begin within eight to 12 days of exposure.

Early symptoms can include fever, cough, runny nose, red or sore eyes, sleepiness, irritability and tiny white spots in the mouth. Then a red blotchy rash will appear on the face and spread to the rest of the body.

The virus can be more severe in adults and infants. 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.

Investigation continues

Macfarlane could not say how many people may have been exposed at the Saint John Regional Hospital.

"This is still under investigation," he said.

Health officials have been reaching out to known contacts, but Macfarlane did not say how many.

It's unclear whether they are immunized or otherwise immune.

"This is part of our ongoing investigation," he said.

Who's immune?

Adults born before 1970 are considered immune and many people are protected with two doses of the measles, mumps, rubella and varicella, or MMRV vaccine.

If people believe they've been exposed and are exhibiting symptoms or aren't sure if their immunizations are up to date, they should seek medical attention. They should call their health-care provider, clinic or hospital in advance so precautions can be taken to protect other patients.

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

There is no cure for the disease, but treatment is available to relieve symptoms and prevent complications.

Most people are sick for about 10 days.

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.

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