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On Friday, the Five Hills Health Region reported a suspected case of measles in a young adult.
Following a recent outbreak of measles in Alberta, those cases and the suspected FHHR are linked to recent visits to or from the Netherlands. FHHR medical health officer Dr. Mark Vooght said there have been a “number of cases in the last few weeks” in the Lethbridge, Coaldale and Fort McLeod area in southern Alberta.
He added additional information on the suspected case in the FHHR is not available, but it was related to travel and the adult has a “relatively mild disease, but has recovered well.”
“The measles is always a concern to public health folks,” said Vooght.
“The reason is that it’s a very infectious disease and unless there’s very good immunization coverage in our population — in any given population around the world in fact — then it can quite easily spread and we’ve had good examples of that in Canada.”
He added in social settings with gatherings of people, the risk is always there for measles transmission.
“Unless there’s a high level of immunity, probably way more than 95 per cent, then there is a potential for un-immunized people ... to spread it amongst themselves,” said Vooght. “It’s a good opportunity, perhaps, to think about immunization against measles and check if your child, for example, has been immunized or not.”
He said people in Saskatchewan should be particularly aware of it, especially if they regularly travel to southern Alberta. Children and adults should have had two shots of the measles vaccine, usually in the form of measles, mumps and rubella (MMR).
“It’s often as a standard program to children at 12 and 18 months of age and there’s been numerous catch-ups over the last years, at least since 1995, ’96, to get everyone up to date. What one can do is contact your public health office and ask them if your measles vaccination is up to date.”
He said there are sections of individuals who are “under-immunized” for measles in southern Alberta, which is why the virus is spreading.
Further, while children’s vaccine records are easily available, adults aren’t always aware of their immunization status.
Symptoms of measles include a high fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes and spots in the mouth. A measles rash tends to start on the face before spreading to other parts of the body.
Anyone who discovers a rash should go to a physician or nurse practitioner to get checked out, but be sure to phone ahead to be examined in a separate waiting room.
“Typically there are a number of viruses that can give you a rash and we call it a viral exanthem, which means the virus related to a rash,” said Vooght. “There are many causes of that. Many different types of viruses can do that and we can do specific testing for that.”
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