Concerns grow as measles cases increase in Ontario

Mar 27, 2024 | Canadian News, News, Provincial News

Ontario has recorded nine laboratory-confirmed measles cases in 2024, Public Health Ontario said.

Of the nine cases, Public Health Ontario said seven cases were linked to travel outside Canada and two were linked to an unknown source of exposure, indicating no travel history or known connection to confirmed cases.

This contrasts with the seven laboratory-confirmed measles cases reported in Ontario in 2023.

Ontario Health Minister Sylvia Jones said she is taking proactive measures amidst a concerning surge in measles cases as the province grapples with a rise in lab-confirmed cases.

Sylvia Jones addressed the concerning rise in measles cases in Ontario and said that the province has increased its supply of measles vaccines.

“We do have sufficient supply, we’ve actually procured additional vaccines if needed,” Jones said to a reporter in Hamilton.

“And again, I would ask, you know, have those conversations with your public health unit, with your local practitioner to make sure that your vaccinations for your children and your loved ones are up to date,” she said.

Toronto pharmacist Hannah Nerian said immunization is the best way to protect against measles.

“Two people came to ask me about the vaccine for measles and what they can do, they have been referred to the doctor’s clinic,” Nerian said.

Nerian said it is important to be cautious in closed environments like classrooms and colleges.

“If someone experiences symptoms, it’s advisable for them to stay home instead of attending college, as it can spread,” she said.

Public Health Ontario said the signs and symptoms of measles include fever, a maculopapular rash starting on the face and spreading downward, cough, runny nose, and non-purulent conjunctivitis.

Brianna Davis, a nursing student and clinical extern in the Infection Control Department at William Osler Health System, said the surge in cases is alarming, considering that measles was declared eradicated in Canada in 1998.

“Crucial steps are being taken by Public Health authorities that include rigorous surveillance, health updates/communication for community awareness, and active promotion of the MMR vaccine through vaccination campaigns,” Davis said.

However, she said there are challenges, an ongoing shortage of measles vaccine in the nation and problems in effectively tackling the outbreak without sufficient resources.

“In the event of confirmed cases on campus, I believe that several steps can be implemented, which requires a multi-sectorial team effort,” she said.

“This includes implementing a lockdown and health/illness surveillance to track and evaluate the outbreak’s extent. Additionally, there should be support for affected individuals, involving campus personnel, healthcare professionals, and the circle of care to manage symptoms and track disease progression,” Davis said.

According to Health Canada, the measles virus spreads when individuals breathe air in a location where someone infected with measles is present or has recently been.

Additionally, Health Canada said it can spread through direct contact with mucus from the nose or throat of an infected individual and by touching a contaminated surface or object and then touching their eyes, nose, or mouth.