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MEASLES WARNING

- People Urged to Check Vaccination Records to Ensure They Are Protected, as Measles Cases Turn up in Parts of Ontario -

In the wake of nearly a dozen measles cases being reported elsewhere in Ontario, local health officials want people here to take precautions against a very contagious disease.

The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit is urging local residents to check that their vaccinations against measles are up-to-date. People born in 1970 or later are advised to ensure they have been vaccinated against measles. Individuals born prior to 1970 were likely exposed to measles and are usually considered immune. However, people travelling outside North America, health care workers and military groups may require measles vaccination regardless of age.

The Health Unit’s warning comes as a total of 11 measles cases have been detected recently in southern Ontario. So far in 2014, no confirmed measles cases have been reported to the Health Unit in Haliburton County, Northumberland County and the City of Kawartha Lakes.

“Measles is relatively rare in Canada thanks to high vaccination rates among people, particularly school children,” says Linda McCarey, the Director of Communicable Disease Control with the HKPR District Health Unit. “However, we still do see measles cases in this country, often related to travel to other countries where measles is more common. This is just a reminder that we need to ensure that our vaccinations are up-to-date. With global travel, the world is becoming a smaller place and diseases have no boundaries.”

Since the start of the year, there have been a higher than usual number of measles cases across Canada. In this province, Public Health Ontario confirms the 11 measles cases reported to date in 2014 are all directly or indirectly linked to travel to Europe and Southeast Asia. Given this fact, travellers to these areas are especially urged to make sure their measles vaccinations are current.

Measles is a serious, highly infectious disease. People can spread measles to others before they develop symptoms of the disease. Measles can cause high fever, cough, rash, runny nose and watery eyes. It can also lead to ear infections and pneumonia, and in rarer cases, encephalitis (an infection of the brain) and even death. Very young children and people with weakened immune systems are most vulnerable to measles.

“The good news is that while measles is contagious, the best protection against measles is vaccination with two doses of measles-containing vaccine,” McCarey says.

In Ontario, the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine is publicly funded and typically given to children in two doses. The first dose is given soon after a child’s first birthday, while the second is given at 18 months of age (or at four to six years of age in some cases). Vaccination against measles, mumps and rubella is required by law for all children attending school in Ontario, unless there is a valid exemption on file with the Health Unit.

If people are uncertain about their vaccination status, McCarey advises they check their records. If still unsure about the vaccines they have received, people should contact their health care provider or the Health Unit at 1-866-888-4577.

Local health care providers have also been alerted to be watchful for measles, especially in people returning from overseas trips.

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For more information, contact:

Linda McCarey, Director of Communicable Disease Control, HKPR District Health Unit, (905) 885-9100.

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