Quebec urges vaccination against measles after detecting 10 cases, most in the Montreal area

Quebec public health officials are urging people to get themselves and their young children vaccinated against measles, a highly contagious disease that is making a comeback several years after it was eliminated.

So far, about ten cases have been detected in the province, mainly in Montreal, but Quebec’s public health director, Dr. Luc Boileau, warns this could be just the beginning.

“It can increase very, very quickly,” he said Monday at a news conference in Montreal with the city’s public health director, Dr. Mylene Drouin, and pediatrician, microbiologist and infectious disease specialist Caroline Quach-Thanh.

Three of the cases confirmed in recent weeks have been travel-related and the rest have been transmitted locally.

A list of possible exposures is available at the bottom of this page and at Page dedicated to the Quebec public health measles outbreak.

Boileau and Drouin ask parents whose children are not vaccinated against the disease to make an appointment through the Clic-Santé portal or by calling 1-877-644-4545.

According to Quebec’s vaccination schedule, children can receive the vaccine at 12 and 18 months. However, the vaccine can be administered, free of charge, at any age.

Until now, authorities have warned that measles can make some people seriously ill and that vaccination remains a safe and effective way to prevent it.

“If you are vaccinated properly, that is, two doses after 12 months of age, you are normally absolutely protected against the disease. And if you develop the disease, because sometimes it happens, we have progress, like in everything else. – then the risk of complications is zero or almost zero,” Quach-Thanh said.

“The question is whether to get vaccinated or not. If you are, there is no problem. If not, you run a risk,” Boileau added.

About 78.5 per cent of primary school-aged children and 82 per cent of high school students are currently vaccinated in Montreal, averages that are lower than in the rest of the province.

Measles symptoms

Early symptoms of measles include:

  • fever
  • nasal congestion with runny nose
  • cough
  • conjunctivitis (red, watery eyes)
  • light sensitive eyes
  • general discomfort
  • Rashes then appear on the face and body.

It can take 10 to 14 days (exceptionally up to 21 days) between exposure to the measles virus and the appearance of symptoms. This is known as the incubation period. A person begins to be contagious four days before the rash appears and can remain contagious for up to four days afterward. Measles lasts one to two weeks.

Anyone with symptoms should self-isolate, wear a mask, and contact a health professional by telephone before going to a health facility to prevent transmission.

Measles is easy to transmit

Public health warns that measles is one of the most contagious infectious diseases: About 90 percent of unvaccinated people can develop the disease after contact with an infected person.

Each case can generate dozens of potential contacts. A list of possible exposure locations and times is available on the measles outbreak page of the province’s public health website.

Measles is caused by a virus that travels through the air when an infected person breathes, coughs, sneezes or talks. The risk of transmission continues for some time, even after the contagious person has left the scene.

It can cause serious complications, such as encephalitis and pneumonia.

One in 3,000 cases can end in death, Quach-Thanh said.

“There are enough complications and concerns that you don’t want your child to get measles, so if we can reduce this outbreak, then we should,” he said.

With files from The Canadian Press

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