Measles is a highly contagious viral disease. There is no cure for the measles virus. It remains an important cause of death among young children globally, despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine.
28 cases of measles have been reported in Canada in 2019. These cases were reported by Québec, British Columbia, the Northwest Territories, Ontario, and Alberta. In Canada, adults born before 1970 are generally presumed to have developed natural immunity to measles. However, travellers who are not vaccinated may bring measles into Canada. As a result, outbreaks may occur, especially in communities where people are not vaccinated.
So, the big question is - Can YOU Get Measles?
If exposed to the measles, people who have not had the disease or who have not been vaccinated are at risk of getting sick. People at greatest risk of measles and its complications are:
- unvaccinated young children
- unvaccinated pregnant women
- those with compromised immune systems
Individuals at higher risk of being exposed to measles include travellers, military personnel, healthcare workers, and students.
How does measles spread?
It can spread to others through coughing and sneezing. Also, measles virus can live for up to two hours in an airspace where the infected person coughed or sneezed. If other people breathe the contaminated air or touch the infected surface, then touch their eyes, noses, or mouths, they can become infected. Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, up to 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected. Infected people can spread measles to others from four days before through four days after the characteristic measles rash appears. Measles is a disease of humans; measles virus is not spread by any other animal species.
Prevention during an outbreak
If you think you have been exposed to the measles virus during an outbreak, consult your family physician. They may recommend the measles vaccine or protective antibodies (immunoglobulin or Ig) to prevent measles or make the symptoms less severe. In a measles outbreak, the vaccine can be given to children as early as 6 months of age. However, 2 more doses of the vaccine must be given after the child is 12 months old to ensure long lasting immunity to measles.
Prevention before travelling abroad
Travellers born before 1970 who are not immune to measles should get one dose of the measles vaccine. As for travellers who were born in or after 1970 who are not immune to measles should get two doses of the measles vaccine.
Infants traveling can receive the measles vaccine as young as 6 months of age. However, two more doses of the measles-containing vaccine must be given after the child is 12 months old to ensure long-lasting immunity to measles.
If you are planning to travel abroad visit your healthcare provider at least 6 weeks before you leave. Read the Government of Canada's travel health notices.
The measles vaccine has been in use since the 1960s. The measles vaccine is safe, effective and free in Canada. With two doses, measles vaccination is almost 100% effective. WHO recommends immunisation for all susceptible children and adults for whom measles vaccination is not contraindicated.
So, if you're traveling abroad soon, bring back souvenirs. Try not to bring back Measles! Let me know if you have any questions, and feel free to leave a comment.
Healthcare Consultant, in4MED
The author of this blog post is a Physician with over 10 years of experience working in the healthcare system as a clinician, researcher and educator. She is passionate about healthcare for older adults and strives to be a resourceful inspiration to caregivers.
*No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional.