How to know if you have measles, and what to do if you get it

Cases of measles across Canada have prompted the P.E.I. Public Health Office to warn people to be on the lookout for it on the Island.

'The initial symptoms are fairly mild'

The measles vaccine had eliminated the disease in Canada. (Vernon Bryant/The Associated Press)

Cases of measles across Canada have prompted the P.E.I. Public Health Office to warn people to be on the lookout for it on the Island.

Alberta has issued an alert for several communities after a confirmed case there, and there are confirmed cases in New Brunswick and Montreal.

Measles is highly contagious, spreading through the air around people that have it, so Chief Public Health Officer Heather Morrison said it is important for people to be vigilant to avoid spreading it.

"The initial symptoms are fairly mild — with runny nose; red, watery eyes — but a fairly high fever and a cough," said Morrison.

"After about three or four days a red, blotchy rash appears. Usually starts on the head and goes towards the trunk and the arms."

The rash is a distinctive sign of measles, says Dr. Heather Morrison. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

If you suspect you have measles, or if you have been in close contact with someone who has measles, you should contact your health-care provider, Morrison said. Because measles is so contagious, you should call ahead before arriving at the hospital or your doctor's office.

If you do have measles, you will be asked to avoid public places for four days after the rash appears. A public health nurse will ask you about your immunization history, and the places and people you were in contact with while you were contagious.

Vaccines had eliminated measles in Canada

Before the measles vaccine was introduced around 1970 the disease was common, with 300,000 to 400,000 cases a year, Morrison said. In some of those cases pneumonia developed, and the patient died. In other cases there were serious complications such as deafness, blindness, and brain damage.

By 1998 immunization programs had eliminated measles from Canada, but there were still some cases from people travelling abroad, Morrison said.

Measles vaccines are available from the P.E.I. Public Health Office, and are part of the recommended vaccine regime for all children born on P.E.I.

More P.E.I. news

With files from Island Morning


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