Health officials in N.S. and N.B. warn of possible exposure to measles virus
Public health officials in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are warning the public about a possible exposure to an infected measles patient.
The patient sought medical attention at both the Halifax Infirmary and the Saint John Regional Hospital in mid-April.
Officials say anyone who visited the Halifax Infirmary emergency room on April 17 between 12 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. may have been exposed to the disease.
The infected patient was also exposed to the emergency room and x-ray room at the Saint John Regional Hospital. Officials say anyone who visited the hospital from April 18 to April 22 could have come in contact with the disease.
“We are asking them to check their immunization records to make sure they have two doses of measles vaccine and to also look for signs and symptoms of measles,” said Dr. Jessica Jackman, a medical officer of health in Nova Scotia. “And should those symptoms develop, to contact their healthcare provider.”
Measles is a highly contagious disease with initial symptoms such as fever, coughing, runny nose, and inflamed eyes. Most infected people develop symptoms anywhere between 10 to 20 days after being exposed to an infected person.
“And then a few days later, it will start with a red blotchy rash that starts on the face and then spreads down through the rest of the body,” said Jackman.
Public health officials have confirmed the infected patient recently travelled internationally.
UNICEF Canada said in a statement that measles are a growing concern globally, stating "in the first three months of 2019, more than 110,000 measles cases were reported worldwide." It added those numbers are up nearly 300 per cent from the same period last year.
Chris Richardson, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Dalhousie University, has studied the virus for 40 years. He says he’s concerned something so preventable could cause more children to suffer and maybe even die.
“There can be death in one in 1,000 patients and usually due to inflammation of the brain,” said Richardson.
The Nova Scotia Health Authority says it will be difficult to track how many people come forward with concerns of being exposed, since they are being told to go to their primary care provider.
Health professionals say the best way to prevent catching the virus is vaccination.
“So once you’ve had both doses, it’s basically 100 per cent,” said Troy Marchand, a pharmacist in Halifax.
Adults born in, or after 1970 require two doses of measles-containing vaccine to be protected against measles.
Adults born before 1970 are considered to be protected against measles through natural immunity.
Vaccines can be done for free by a physician or for a small fee from any pharmacist.
Health officials are advising anyone who is presenting symptoms of measles to contact their medical care provider before arriving so they can ensure the patient is not exposing any other patients to the virus.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Heidi Petracek and Marie Adsett