Two Calgary schools sent dozens of students and teachers home Monday after health officials confirmed a case of measles at both a high school and a junior high.
At Henry Wise Wood High School, more than 100 unimmunized students and some 16 staffers were told to isolate themselves until April 29 to prevent the contagious airborne disease from spreading. At Sherwood Junior High School for Grades 5 to 9, fewer than 30 students and staff were given the same orders for isolation and prevention.
The new confirmed cases of measles bring the total number in Calgary to seven – and that’s just in the past 3 1/2 months, according to Alberta Health Services.
“With seven cases it reflects where we are in the world with measles. Some cases are travel related,” said Calgary Zone medical officer of health Judy MacDonald, referring to the measles outbreaks in the Philippines and the Netherlands that have made their way to Canada.
“So far, we’ve had three [Calgary] schools in the last two weeks,” Dr. MacDonald added. “Measles is a serious disease. We have a vaccine. Why not step up and use it?”
Earlier this month, Western Canada High School sent close to 100 students home when two measles cases were confirmed. Of the previous cases in Calgary, at least two have been traced to the Philippines, where thousands of people have been infected and at least 23 have died.
The two schools, Western Canada and Wise Wood, are similar. Western Canada has 2,067 students; Wise Wood 1,344. They both offer International Baccalaureate programs for the top learners. Western Canada, located close to downtown Calgary, also has French and Spanish immersion. Wise Wood, located in a southwest community, has a Gifted and Talented Education Program. Both schools were quick to notify parents about what had happened and said isolating their children was a “requirement outlined in the Public Health Act.”
Both schools notified the Calgary Board of Education and insisted on their website that their case of measles is of no risk to the general public. And yet both schools sent roughly 100 unimmunized students home when hit by their case.
“We understand the concern and inconvenience that absence can cause our students and their families,” said a CBE statement. “We are continuing to work closely with AHS to ensure the safety and well-being of our all our students, teachers and staff.”
Asked if AHS was investigating additional potential cases at other Calgary schools, Dr. MacDonald said, “None that I’m aware of at this time.”
Measles can take 21 days to incubate. Its symptoms include a high fever, a runny nose and a rash. In extreme cases, it can lead to death.