Once a common childhood disease in Canada, but thought to have been conquered, measles has resurfaced in the Montreal area again. The public health department has issued a warning to Quebecers to make sure they have their shots (vaccine) up to date.
As there is no specific treatment for the illness, the public health officials say that vaccination is very important. Not just one shot is enough. Two shots are recommended.
According to public health officials, 14 cases have been reported in Montreal in recent months with 12 of them in adults in the age group of 22 - 39. So far, no one has died in this minor outbreak.
Vaccination is the easiest and effective way to avoid this extremely, extremely contagious disease, said Dr Jocelyne Sauve, director, public health, South of Montreal, where eight cases were found.
A man who came in contact with travelers to the Middle East last April is suspected to be the cause for this mild outbreak. At first, the health department thought only two had contracted the disease. But more cases have popped up leading to a concern among the health officials.
While two children caught the disease from their mothers, others could have got it in the subways or in a convenience store, health officials said adding that they have found links between many of the cases but not all. Alberta has also recorded cases but there is no link to Montreal.
From 2001 to 2005, an average of 14 cases per year were reported. The highest was 34 in 2001. This year, Canada has recorded a total of 19 cases, according to federal officials. The risk of death from measles is one in 3,000.
Measles was rampant in Canada till the vaccine was found in the 1970s. It was in 1989 that Canada had 10,000 cases of measles in which five children died and four suffered brain damage. It was then Canada realized that one dose of vaccine was not enough and recommended second dose.
Measles, still common in the developing countries, has been all but eliminated in North America, particularly in Canada by widespread immunization, but there still is a section that rejects vaccination for religious or philosophical reasons. Immigrants in the recent years might not also have taken their shots, said Sauve. Therefore, the vaccine coverage is not 100 percent.
Death from measles are easily avoidable. It is said that people are not taking advantage of easy measures, she lamented. As the disease is not widespread, the physicians have no clue about it and at many clinics measles go undiagnosed, she remarked.