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Ontario's top doctor warns of 'potential outbreaks' of measles

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Ontario’s top doctor is warning public health units to be prepared for more cases and “potential outbreaks” of measles amid a rise of infection in Europe.

“Currently, there are four active cases of measles in Canada, two of which are in Ontario in the Region of Peel and City of Toronto,” the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore wrote to Ontario Health and local public health agencies Tuesday.

“Given this dramatic rise in cases globally, health system partners in Ontario must be prepared for the continued importation of cases and potential outbreaks.”

The two Ontario cases were both in children who had recently travelled outside of Canada. In at least one instance, the child was hospitalized.

The memo acknowledges that with March Break coming up, healthcare practitioners should encourage vaccinations and report possible cases.

“While measles is no longer considered endemic in Canada, outbreaks can happen when susceptible individuals (e.g., unvaccinated) travel to and return from countries where measles is circulating,” Moore wrote.

“Importation and resultant local transmission can, and has, led to measles outbreaks in Canada.”

Measles are highly contagious, with symptoms that include red rashes, fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes and fatigue.

The viral infection spreads through the air and close contact. Symptoms can start to present themselves anywhere from seven to 21 days after exposure.

In 2023 there were 12 confirmed cases of measles in Canada.

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