'Herd immunity' guarding Ottawa against measles outbreak
High vaccination rate lessens risk of infection, health officials say
The vast majority of parents in Ottawa are doing a good job vaccinating their kids, saving the city from a measles outbreak, local health officials say.
"We have a good base immunization rate here in Ottawa, and people understand the importance of immunization," said Dr. Robin Taylor, the city's associate medical officer of health.
Taylor's reassurance came on the same day Ottawa Public Health (OPH) confirmed a man contracted measles while travelling abroad.
The highly contagious virus can be spread when an infected person breathes, coughs or sneezes, and can can remain infectious in the air for up to two hours.
Infected patients can experience flu-like symptoms before developing the telltale rash.
The disease was all but eradicated in Canada by the late 90s, but cases still occur.
Most confirmed cases are contracted overseas, like the most recent case in Ottawa, Taylor said.
At 94.4 per cent among seven-year-olds in 2017 — the latest statistics available — Ottawa's measles vaccination rate is just shy of the national standard of 95 per cent, also known as "herd immunity," the rate required to stop the spread of the disease.
It's also an improvement over the 91.9 per cent local vaccination rate logged just two years earlier.
Ottawa had just two confirmed cases of measles in 2016 and four in 2014.
"So we have to have a good base level of immunity," Taylor said.
Still, Ottawa's vaccination rate lagged behind the province-wide rate of 96.2 per cent among seven-year-olds in 2017.
Despite the relatively positive picture, health officials recommend people protect themselves.
They warn that some may think they're adequately vaccinated, but in fact never received the recommended booster shot of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.
OPH encourages people to check their medical records to make sure.