March 26, 2014
Measles is highly contagious and is spreading globally. Europe, Asia and Africa are reporting significant red measles activity. In Canada, measles activity is reported by Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario. Recent Ontario cases have been imported from Thailand and from Philippines where measles has increased due to Typhoon Haiyan. Regardless of destination, travelers through international airports including Canadian airports, are at risk of exposure to measles.
The Region of Waterloo Public Health and the University of Waterloo recently received confirmation of one case of red measles in a student at the University who acquired the infection while travelling.
The student attended a class held in J.R. Coutts Engineering Lecture Hall, room 101, on Tuesday, February 25, 2014 at 10:30 a.m.. The student left the class feeling ill and remained away from campus until fully recovered. Laboratory tests confirmed that the individual had red measles, which is a highly communicable infectious disease.
The incubation period for infection can be as long as 21 days, which means that public health officials expect anyone who was potentially exposed on February 25 would have become ill by March 18. To date, no new cases of measles have been reported to Public Health. We have passed through the timeframe when the onset of new red measles cases would have occurred as a result of this potential exposure. Any persons exposed to this case, who have not yet developed symptoms, would not be expected to develop measles.
If you have any concerns or questions, please speak with a health professional or your family physician.
In light of this event, Health Services advise all students, staff and faculty members to check that their immunizations are up-to-date. If you are uncertain whether you are protected please contact your family doctor or Health Services. Those who are travelling are recommended to ensure their immunization status is up to date since movement through international airports is a risk for exposure to red measles.
Region of Waterloo Public Health recommends MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) for immunization.
- everyone should be immunized for measles
- adults born in 1970 or later should have received 1 dose of MMR
- two doses of MMR are recommended for all children, young adults (ages 18-25 years), post-secondary students, health care workers, those who plan to travel internationally and those who received killed measles vaccine (1967-1970)
- consult with your physician about MMR for infants over 6 months of age if travelling to a high risk area
We advise all students, staff and faculty members to check that their immunizations are up-to-date.
Without proper immunization, you are at a much higher risk for acquiring the disease and its serious side effects.
Symptoms of measles include:
- Fever, runny nose and dry cough
- Red, irritated eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- Small white, grey or blue spots inside the mouth
- Red, blotchy rash that begins 2-4 days later, appearing on the face and spreading down the body.
Symptoms usually develop around 10 days after exposure but may develop as early as 7 days or as late as 21 days.
What do you do if you are exposed to measles?
If your immunization is up-to-date you will be protected. If you have not had immunization, please contact your physician or Health Services for advice as soon as you know you have been exposed. Alternatively you may wish to contact the Immunization and Vaccine preventable disease nurse at Waterloo Region Public Health at 519-575-4400. Monitor how you are feeling for the next 3 weeks. If you develop a fever then keep apart from other people in your residence, do not go out in public and stay home from work or school. Contact your physician or Public Health for advice.
If you develop symptoms:
If you think you may have measles, call your doctor’s office and ask to speak with the nurse. The nurse will review your symptoms and make arrangements for you to come to the clinic when it is possible to separate you from other patients who are seeking care. Put on a mask when you enter the physician’s office. Samples of secretions from your nose or throat and blood testing is required to confirm the presence of the virus. Your health care provider will give you the information you need to care for yourself and to protect others while you are infectious.