1st case of measles confirmed in Simcoe Muskoka region, latest in Ontario

Click to play video: 'Measles outbreak: What to know as cases rise in Canada'
Measles outbreak: What to know as cases rise in Canada
WATCH: As Canada grapples with a measles outbreak, infectious diseases expert Dr. Isaac Bogoch joins us to offer a comprehensive overview, discussing the outbreak's current status, and the concerning trend of community transmission. – Mar 5, 2024

Editor’s note: The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit announced March 27, 2024 that it had been notified by Public Health Ontario that a laboratory error had resulted in a false positive. A new story has further details.

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit announced Wednesday morning that the first case of measles has been confirmed in the area.

The health unit said it has received confirmation that a resident of Simcoe Muskoka has tested positive for measles.

Health officials says the resident is an adult who has not travelled recently or been in contact with a known case of measles.

The health unit is reaching out to known contacts who may have been exposed.

“This is the first case that we’ve had in 10 years in Simcoe Muskoka of measles. That’s an important event because it’s very transmissible, and it can be a very serious infection,” said Dr. Charles Gardner, SMDHU medical officer of health.

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Gardener told Global News that seeing measles cases from local transmission is concerning because it can lead to community spread.

“The risk of measles is low for people who have been fully immunized with two doses of measles vaccine or those born before 1970; however, many children have been delayed in receiving their routine childhood immunizations, including the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, and people who have not had two doses of measles vaccine are at higher risk of contracting the disease,” Gardner said.

The nearly eradicated disease has started to make a comeback in recent months, due to a drop in vaccinations, officials say.

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Other cases have already been reported by health units in Brantford, Hamilton, London, and the Peel and York regions.

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Speaking at a media conference last week, Health Minister Mark Holland said he is “deeply concerned” with the global measles outbreak and its potential impact on Canada.

“We’re seeing a lot of illness that was almost rendered non-existent, starting to come back because of vaccine hesitancy,” Holland told reporters. “We have to depoliticize health information. We have to be a society that follows science … There should be no partisanship in following the best health advice that’s rooted in science and evidence.”

According to Public Health Ontario’s data, as of March 11, 2024, there have been six laboratory-confirmed cases of measles, five of which were associated with travel, and one involving a man with an unknown source of exposure. It is unclear if these numbers include the recent case in Simcoe Muskoka.

Ontario Public Health noted in its recent update that due to increased measles activity globally, Ontario has begun to see more measles cases.

“In Ontario, measles is rare, owing to the successful elimination of measles in Canada due to high immunization coverage. As a result, measles cases are usually associated with travel (often referred to as ‘measles importations’),” the health agency said in an online statement.

In 2023, there were just seven laboratory-confirmed measles cases in Ontario.

Click to play video: 'Measles: the symptoms to watch for, and what vaccinated people need to know'
Measles: the symptoms to watch for, and what vaccinated people need to know

SMDHU advises anyone who believes they may have been exposed to the measles virus to notify the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit of your exposure by calling Health Connection at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520 Monday to Friday between 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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Health officials recommend people confirm that they and their family members have two doses of measles vaccine (MMR or MMRV); those born before 1970 would likely have had measles illness as a child and are protected.

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit warns the public may have been exposed at the following locations:

Monday, March 4

  • 8:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, 2-25 King St. South, Cookstown

Tuesday, March 5

  • 8:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, 2-25 King St. South, Cookstown
    12 p.m. – 3 p.m. Walmart Supercentre, 30 Dunham Dr., Alliston

Thursday, March 7

  • 8:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. Queens Medical Health Centre, 238 Barrie St., Thornton
  • 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. Sobeys, 247 Mill St., Angus

Friday, March 8

  • 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Moon Flour Bakery, 4 Massey St., Angus
  • 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Freshii, 285 Mill St. Unit #3, Angus
  • 4 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. Collingwood General & Marine Hospital Emergency Department, 459 Hume St., Collingwood

The health unit warns that measles is a highly contagious viral infection that spreads very easily through airborne transmission.

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The measles virus can live in the air or on surfaces for up to two hours, with symptoms of measles beginning seven to 21 days after exposure; they include fever, runny nose, cough, drowsiness, and red eyes, health officials report.

Health officials say those with measles may see small white spots appear on the inside of the mouth and throat in some cases, while three to seven days after symptoms begin, a red, blotchy rash appears on the face and then progresses down the body.

Health officials say while people who do get sick usually recover without treatment, measles can be more severe for infants, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems. Even individuals who are up to date with the measles vaccine should watch for symptoms of measles for 21 days after exposure.

The health unit advises individuals and families to ensure they are up to date with their measles vaccines and to remain watchful for symptoms even if vaccinated.

– with files from Global News’ Katie Dangerfield

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