Person with measles who travelled to Inuvik was a child, says medical director

The Northwest Territories government has issued a public health advisory listing the locations people may have been exposed to the measles from Feb. 12 to Feb. 19.

Territorial Medical Director Andre Corriveau says the child did not have proper immunizations

The advisory from the N.W.T. department of health says health care workers or military who think they have been exposed to measles should contact their employer’s occupational health team. (CBC)

Territorial Medical Director Andre Corriveau has confirmed that the person with measles who travelled to Inuvik, N.W.T., was a child.

Corriveau said the child did not have the proper immunizations, though the parents were not against vaccinations.

The child was travelling internationally with family and became sick on the way back home.

While Corriveau wouldn't speak specifically about this case, he did say generally one of the reasons why cases of measles are becoming more common is because the disease is so rare.

"Many people are just complacent," he said. "They might not be anti vaccine but … there's no rush. They're busy, so things are being postponed."

When they travel, they aren't thinking about the fact that their child hasn't been immunized or that measles is still prevalent in many countries around the world.

Measles also requires a booster shot later on, which some people may fail to get, said Corriveau. Children must also be at least 12 months old to receive the vaccine.

Cleaning 'ramped up' at childcare centre

Measles can be particularly dangerous for people with weakened immune systems, including infants.

That's why the Children First Society childcare facility in Inuvik, N.W.T., is especially careful about cleaning.

"We do a daily disinfecting, particularly in the infant room, everything daily is disinfected from top to bottom and with the other program rooms, everything is disinfected on a regular basis," said Patricia Davison, executive director of Children First Society.

"When there is something going through the community, or we suspect that there might be some exposure, that is ramped up."

We know exactly who in the building has had immunizations and who hasn't.- Patricia Davison, executive director of Children First Society

They have children aged six months to 12 years in their program, and all children are expected to have up to date immunizations.

"We know exactly who in the building has had immunizations and who hasn't — staff, children, volunteers. We have to have all that information so we know who may be at risk and who may not be."

At the moment, all of the children attending the program are immunized, she said, though they have had discussions with the staff about what symptoms to watch for.

Locations people may have been exposed

The Northwest Territories government has issued a public health advisory listing the locations people may have been exposed.

Alberta also issued a health alert for a handful of locations in and around the Edmonton International Airport.

The specific times and locations are:

Tuesday, Feb. 12

  • A flight from Vancouver to Edmonton on AC236, which arrived in Edmonton at 12:54 p.m.
  • The Edmonton airport hotel shuttle which left the terminal around 2:30 p.m., stopping at four Leduc hotels: Paradise Inn and Suites, Crystal Star Inn, Wyndham Garden Edmonton Airport and Wingate by Wyndham.
  • The Walmart Supercentre on Discovery Way in Leduc, between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.
  • The Stars Inn Hotel on Sparrow Crescent in Leduc, after 3 p.m.

Wednesday, Feb. 13

  • The 6:30 a.m. shuttle from the Crystal Star Inn to the Edmonton airport.
  • The Edmonton International Airport from 6 a.m. to 9:45 a.m.
  • Canadian North flight from Edmonton to Inuvik on 5T-444. That flight travelled through Yellowknife and Norman Wells.
  • The Inuvik Mike Zubko Airport from 1:15 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
  • Canadian North flight from Inuvik to Edmonton on 5T-445, with stops in Norman Wells and Yellowknife.

Saturday, Feb. 16

  • The Inuvik Regional Hospital emergency department and x-ray department from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Sunday, Feb. 17

  • The Inuvik Regional Hospital emergency department from 12 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Monday, Feb. 18

  • The Inuvik Regional Hospital emergency department from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Tuesday, Feb. 19

  • The Inuvik Regional Hospital laboratory from 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.

The Northwest Territories Department of Health and Social Services confirmed the case in a press release on Friday.

The department and all health authorities are contacting any known individuals who were in contact with the infectious person and are "at risk." 

People born before 1970 or who have received two doses of measles-containing vaccine or who have had measles are immune.

Measles symptoms

The department says if anyone shows symptoms, they should stay at home and call the local health care provider. Calling in advance allows health facilities to take precautions to prevent passing on the measles to others.

Measles is spread in the air through coughs or sneezes, or by touching a surface contaminated with the virus. It can also be spread through contact with an infected person, like sharing food, drinks, toys and cigarettes.

Symptoms can appear around seven to 21 days after being exposed to the virus, says the department.

They include:

  • Fever.
  • Dry cough.
  • Runny nose.
  • Sore throat.
  • Inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis).
  • Tiny white spots with bluish-white centres inside the mouth (Koplik's spots).
  • Skin rash of large, flat blotches that often flow into one another.

The MMR vaccine is the best way to protect against measles, and all children 12 months and over and adults born on or after 1970 should receive it, says the department. Children between 12 months and 12 years can get the MMRV vaccine instead.

Measles can lead to serious complications in some children, including pneumonia, encephalitis or death.

With files from Mackenzie Scott and Steve Silva

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