February 21, 2019 7:19 pm
Updated: February 21, 2019 8:38 pm

Saskatchewan Health Authority concerned by West Coast measles outbreak

WATCH: Measles are popping up at alarming rates on the West Coast with nearly a dozen confirmed cases in Vancouver. While immunization rates in Saskatchewan are strong, the provincial health authority says there is still room for concern.


A once-rare disease is popping up at alarming rates on the West Coast.

Rash, fever, coughs and even pneumonia.

Those are just some hallmarks of measles- an extremely contagious disease currently breaking out in Vancouver and Washington state.

READ MORE: B.C. government considers requiring students to register measles immunizations

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“We hope that our higher immunization coverage will prevent it from getting to Saskatchewan, but no one is immune. It’s a very contagious disease,” Saskatchewan Health Authority immunization and travel health medical director Dr. Tania Diener said.

There have been no cases of measles in Saskatchewan since 2014 when 16 people were diagnosed.

“Our population, the coverage for measles vaccine is high,” Dr. Diener said. “In January 2018, about 95 percent of two-year-olds had one dose of measles vaccine, and 90 percent of five-year-olds had two doses.”

The “herd effect” that protects the larger population from the disease kicks in at a roughly 85 percent vaccination rate.

Diener says anyone traveling is at a higher risk of catching measles. Cases in Europe have been on the rise for the past two years, while the World Health Organization says an epidemic of measles in Madagascar has caused more than 900 deaths.

READ MORE: Making vaccines mandatory: how Sask.’s Health Ministry is handling the debate

For Canadian newcomers in Regina, a full-time nurse is on hand at the Regina Open Doors Society to help with immunization and additional information.

“Most of the time they want to make sure the kids are caught up with what grade they are in school and themselves as well,” community connection worker Maya Dabo said.

An Angus Reid Institute survey released Thursday morning found 92 per cent of Canadians believe vaccinations are effective at protecting the community from diseases.

In Saskatchewan, 80 per cent of respondents said those against childhood vaccination are irresponsible.

READ MORE: Attitudes and opinions toward mandatory vaccinations

However, a quarter of people surveyed say the science around immunization isn’t clear and there’s concern about serious side effects.

Diener says it’s disappointing for medical workers that want correct information out there, but for now, they’ll keep working on raising immunization rates in hopes of putting a deadly, but preventable disease to bed.


© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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