More measles vaccine coverage needed

Justin Crann
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Possibility of 'mini-outbreaks' still exist, official says

Though there remains no confirmed cases of measles in the Five Hills Health Region (FHHR), officials are taking the risk seriously.

Dr. Mark Vooght

“Measles is very contagious. It’s very infectious. It’s one of the most — if not the most — infectious viruses,” said Dr. Mark Vooght, chief medical officer in the FHHR. “(And) people can spread the virus to others one or two days before they actually have any symptoms.”

Measles has become a concern for the region since two separate cases were confirmed within the province earlier this month. One of those cases involved an infant who was travelling with family and contracted the virus, bringing it back by way of several flights to Regina.

The Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region has been following through on potential contact points and has confirmed four cases of the disease within its area. Another case was confirmed elsewhere in southern Saskatchewan.

With the proximity being a concern, officials in the FHHR are monitoring the situation closely and urging residents to get their vaccinations if they haven’t yet received them.

“Right now, (among) children who have reached two years of age, the coverage rate (of the vaccine) is 77 per cent. By age seven it’s 90 or 91 per cent,” said Vooght. “Unfortunately, that’s not enough to stop a potential outbreak.”

The ideal coverage rate — meaning the number of people who have been completely immunized with both shots — to minimize the potential for severe outbreaks, Vooght said, is upward of 95 per cent.

Coverage less than that still leaves unprotected individuals who could potentially contract and then spread the virus, a situation that “could cause a little mini-outbreak,” he said.

The health region is also urging individuals to pay attention to the possible symptoms and, should they suspect they might have the virus, to call ahead to their local clinic or the emergency room before going there.

“If you’re sick enough, the practice can prepare for you. When you go to the practice, someone will be waiting outside to give you a mask,” said Vooght. “Then you’ll be taken into a side room and you won’t sit in the main waiting room, because that could be a source of possible infection for others.”

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Geographic location: Southern Saskatchewan

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