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Measles outbreaks prompt medical chief to issue travel warning

A student receives a measles vaccine injection.


A third confirmed case of measles in Hamilton has prompted a message from Ontario's chief medical officer of health: Some Canadians travelling abroad are bringing home a disease that is making a most unwanted comeback.

Arlene King said at a news conference in Toronto on Tuesday that "measles anywhere is a threat everywhere." The proof of that is not only running rampant through B.C.'s Fraser Valley, where 320 cases have been confirmed. The disease is also in Ontario, where 11 cases (all in 2014) have officially been logged. What has now been classified as an outbreak, Dr. King explained, is connected with travel to heavily infected nations such as the Netherlands and the Philippines.

"Between 2009 and 2012, 27 cases of confirmed measles were reported in Ontario, of which 25 were associated with travel outside Canada," Dr. King said. "In 2014, 11 cases of measles have been reported in Ontario, and all of these 11 cases were directly or indirectly associated with travel to the Philippines, Taiwan and Europe."

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Dr. King met in Toronto with infectious disease expert Natasha Crowcroft and Shelley Deeks, a specialist in vaccine-preventable diseases, to discuss the situation. They said there were several small measles outbreaks from Ottawa to Hamilton and the neighbouring Halton and Peel regions, plus a confirmed case in Kitchener-Waterloo.

The third case of measles in Hamilton involves a woman who was infected by a man who was confirmed days ago with the virus. Also in the picture is a person who had contact with the people in Hamilton and then spent some time at a Mississauga trampoline park. For that reason, health officials have issued a measles warning for Mississauga.

Hamilton's first measles carrier was confirmed on March 13. The man had returned from a trip to the Philippines, where 15,683 people are suspected of having measles, another 3,434 have it, and the country's Department of Health says 23 have died from it.

"We are still at risk of importations," Dr. King said.

Measles was thought to have been eradicated in Canada via vaccinations. Immunization rates fell as people as the disease faded from prominence, and some people refused the vaccine for religious reasons.

Measles come with a high fever, runny nose and a rash. The fatality rate is one in 3,000 cases. The vaccine's side effects include high fever, a rash, loss of appetite. One in 50 kids may develop the mumps. Serious side effects such as allergic reactions and seizures are considered rare.

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