36 cases confirmed in measles outbreak

CALGARY – It’s that time of year on campus, students are cramming for finals, eager to head home for a break.

But it’s that break health officials fear in the midst of a measles outbreak, and home for the holidays may not be so holly jolly this year.

“People share Christmas joy, etcetera, but they also share Christmas germs,” said Dr. Vivien Suttorp, Lead Medical Officer of Health for Alberta Health Services South Zone.

Just as Alberta Health Services predicted almost one month ago, the number of those infected with measles continues to multiply.

There are now 36 confirmed cases of measles in southern Alberta.

Now health officials say their concern is not only containing the outbreak in southern Alberta but containing it to the province, and they’ve enlisted Lethbridge’s post secondary institutions to help.

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“There’s lots of information that goes out in various forms, social media, our notice board system,” said University of Lethbridge Health Centre Manager Lori Weber. “So we’re doing things in both IT and paper format to make sure we get the message out to people.”

Both the college and university say they’ve been in constant contact with their on campus population since the outbreak began and they don’t feel an onsite vaccination clinic is necessary.

“The majority of our university student age population is  the most protected against measles,” said Weber. “Their parents chose when they were children to immunize them.”

Health officials continue to reiterate it’s those who are not immunized that face the biggest risk of contracting measles, and with a 21 day delay in symptoms there’s no telling where the outbreak will spread during holiday travel.

“Measles is one of those other respiratory infections which we may see a rise in sort of around the Christmas holidays,” said Dr. Suttorp.

“People can still travel to countries where there are mo cases of measles as well, so we could have new importation of measles.”

Both the college and university have also been advising out of town sports teams to ensure their athletes are immunized before travelling to southern Alberta for games.