Ottawa

Quebec measles outbreak concerns Ottawa

Ottawa Public Health is surveying parents of small children about immunization in response to a large outbreak of measles in Quebec.
The measles outbreak in Quebec is the largest in North and South America since 2002. (U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention)

Ottawa Public Health is surveying parents of small children about immunization in response to a large outbreak of measles in Quebec.

Vaccinations

The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends two doses of the the measles vaccine for children — one dose on the child's first birthday and another 15 months before they start school.

A second dose of the vaccine is also recommended for Canadians who travel to areas experiencing measles outbreaks, healthcare workers, military recruits and secondary school students.

The city agency is surveying families to determine how many school-aged children are immunized. A population needs to have at least 95 per cent of its school age population immunized to create a herd immunity, where a single case of measles introduced into the population is unlikely to spread.

Measles is a respiratory infection that begins much like a cold, but includes a red rash on the body.  There can be more serious complications leading to hospitalization. In developed countries, including Canada, death is estimated to occur once in 3,000 cases.

In 2002, measles were declared eradicated from North America, but it has made a comeback in Quebec, where the number of cases has grown to 750.

However, Quebec provincial health authorities said Thursday there are currently no reported cases in the Outaouais region, which includes Gatineau.

Dr. Vera Etches, the associate medical officer with Ottawa public health, said the outbreak is close enough to concern authorities.

The measles virus is passed through airborne droplets and direct personal contact. (U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention)

"In Quebec there was a failure in immunizing the population for protection," said Etches.

"The same is possible here in Ontario," said Etches. "Measles could be introduced, it can have an outbreak.  We don't want to see that."

"Measles can have serious complications, so we want to see if our population is prepared with enough protection from immunization," she said.

Etches said Ottawa Public Health relies on parents to report immunization records, and while parents can submit them online, the survey targetting parents of small children was added to give the agency more information.

The results of the survey should be available by early next year.

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