TORONTO – In the last few weeks cases of measles have been reported from B.C. to Ontario. On Thursday alone, new cases were confirmed in Edmonton, Calgary, and Manitoba.
Doctors and health officials are pointing the blame at the anti-vaccination movement for the sudden outbreak, which is also spreading across the United States.
“When people say some of this might be related to low vaccine rates among people, that’s a huge understatement,” Dr. Gerald Evans, a Queen’s University medicine professor and director of infection control at Kingston General Hospital, told Global News.
“It’s all because of vaccination rates falling. It’s 100 per cent blamed on the fact that people aren’t getting vaccinated,” Evans said.
Evans said that it’s been decades since pockets of communities in such widespread areas have reported measles outbreaks. In Manitoba, for example, 1996 was the last time the province saw an outbreak.
There is a high rate of complications from measles, which sets it apart from other diseases also making a comeback, such as chicken pox and mumps.
Measles starts with a cough, red, inflamed eyes and a runny nose. And within a day, its victims are covered in a rash that starts at the head right down to their toes. It’s very contagious.
Potential complications range from pneumonia, to ear infections and bronchitis.
It’s so transmissible that a person who believes they have measles must call ahead before going to the doctor’s office, walk-in clinic, or emergency department so they can be prepared to deal with the patient upon arrival.
Here’s a province-by-province look at the outbreak across Canada.
The outbreak in B.C. was first declared March 8 in a region east of Vancouver where immunization rates were low in school and religious groups.
The government confirmed there were 320 cases of measles in the province as of Monday, making it the largest outbreak ever recorded there.
On March 30 it was confirmed an American contracted the disease while visiting the province.
On April 4, Alberta Health Services alerted the public to a “probable case” of measles in Red Deer.
Calgary has had six confirmed cases of measles this year, including two cases on April 2 that were tracked back to Western Canada High School.
Alberta Health Services warned Thursday that patrons of two popular Calgary restaurants may have been exposed.
Also on Thursday, Alberta Health Services confirmed a case of measles in the Edmonton Zone.
Four people in Manitoba have been confirmed to have contracted the disease. This includes a woman in her 40s living in Winnipeg and a teenager in the Southern Health region.
Health officials are warning people who visited two shopping centres and a hospital that they may have been exposed.
Public Health Ontario said there have been 11 confirmed cases of measles in the province this year and they are being managed by local public health units.
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Arlene King said all of the current measles cases in Ontario are associated with travel to the Philippines, Thailand or Europe.
With files from The Canadian Press and Carmen Chai