The number of people infected with the measles virus in New Brunswick continues to increase – and is now at 11.
Health officials in the province said Wednesday they have confirmed another two new cases of the virus in the Saint John area.
Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer, told reporters the latest cases are linked to a previously confirmed case at Kennebecasis Valley High School.
“At this time, we are asking people who may have come into contact with these individuals to stay at home, watch for symptoms, call 811 if you think you have symptoms of measles,” she said. “We don’t want you to present to an emergency department or a doctor’s office or clinic without first having called ahead.”
Public health staff have offered immunization clinics for students and staff at the high school.
Russell said the province has a supply of the vaccine but medical authorities are prioritizing the shots for people who have been exposed to anyone showing symptoms of the disease.
“We are telling people, including the pharmacy association – we sent them a letter on Monday – stating that we need to protect the vaccine supply for that reason,” she said. “It’s not that we don’t have a supply. We have a supply but have to reserve it for those priority cases.”
Russell said more than 2,000 people have been informed they may have been exposed to the measles virus. She said the outbreak is tying up resources and staff who are working long hours in the effort to contact people.
Early symptoms of the virus may include fever, cough or tiny white spots in the mouth. Within three to seven days, a red rash will appear, first on the face and then spreading to the body, arms and legs. The measles virus is transmitted through the air or by direct contact with an infected person.
The first case in New Brunswick was linked to someone who travelled outside the province.
Subsequent cases were tied to people who came into contact with the virus at Kennebecasis Valley High School or the emergency department at the Saint John Regional Hospital.
The president of the New Brunswick Medical Society said Tuesday he would not be surprised if the number of cases increases.
Health Department officials say they need to count 40 consecutive days without new cases in order to consider the outbreak over.