Health officials are advising increased caution and encouraging vaccination in the wake of additional measles cases in Saskatchewan and other provinces.
Prairie North Health Region has reported three probable measles cases in unimmunized children, in addition to one case in an unimmunized child reported on Friday. The health region issued a Public Health Notice that includes potential locations for public exposure and provides advice to residents. The Ministry of Health is working closely with the region on the public health response.
Two doses of measles vaccine are required for maximum protection. Measles vaccine is usually offered in combination with mumps, rubella and varicella in one vaccine at 12 months and again at 18 months.
In Saskatchewan, 89 per cent of children have received one dose of a measles vaccine by age two, but only 75 per cent have received a second dose by their second birthday.
“Saskatchewan’s current childhood vaccination rate is not high enough to prevent outbreaks,” Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said. “Parents need to ensure their children have received two doses of measles vaccine by age two. If their children are running behind schedule, now is the time to make an appointment with public health.”
Dr. Shahab recommends that children wait until 12 months for their first measles vaccine. However, given Alberta’s current outbreak, children from six to 12 months who are travelling to Calgary, Edmonton or central Alberta, or other parts of the world experiencing measles outbreaks, are able to get a measles vaccine earlier.
Even with an early dose, children would still require their two routine doses of vaccine at 12 and 18 months.
Measles is a highly infectious, potentially serious disease that can be easily transmitted through the air. Symptoms include high fever, cough and runny nose, followed by a rash. The rash generally starts on the face and then spreads to other parts of the body.
People who develop symptoms are encouraged to call ahead to their health provider when seeking medical advice, to avoid exposing others.
People who wish to check their vaccination records should contact the public health office in the health region in which they were vaccinated. More information is available at www.health.gov.sk.ca/immunization-records.
For information on measles symptoms, treatment and vaccination, call HealthLine at 811 or visit www.saskatchewan.ca/live/health-and-healthy-living/prevention-and-treatment/measles.
To date, Saskatchewan has reported 12 confirmed and three probable cases of measles in 2014.