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For first time in more than 10 years, child dies of measles in Ontario

A young child has died of measles in Ontario, marking the first death in the province from the highly contagious virus in more than 10 years, a Public Health Ontario report confirms.

The child, who was under the age of five, was not immunized against the virus, according to the report, which was published on Thursday.

The report also confirms this is the first measles death in the province in more than a decade.

Public Health Ontario says that there have been 22 confirmed cases of measles reported in the province in 2024. Of those individuals, 13 were children and nine were adults. Four of the adults were previously immunized, two were unimmunized, and two had an unknown immunization status.

The cases spanned across nine different public health units and the source of transmission in 15 or the 22 cases is believed to be travel, the report notes.

The highest number of cases were reported by Toronto Public Health and public health officials in Hamilton, which each confirmed six cases of measles in their regions respectively. 

Five cases required hospitalization and all of those cases were among children under the age of nine who were not vaccinated. The child who died was among the children who were hospitalized.

Officials warn that the highly infectious respiratory virus spreads easily to those who are not immunized or have not previously had measles. Infants, unimmunized pregnant individuals, and people with weakened immune systems are especially at risk.

Symptoms of the virus include fever, a red blotchy rash, red watery eyes and cough.

“In Ontario, measles has been rare, owing to the successful elimination of measles in Canada and high immunization coverage. As a result, measles cases are predominantly associated with travel,” the Public Health Ontario report read.

“Due to an increase in measles activity globally, Ontario has begun to see more cases of measles.”

Between 2013 and 2023, there were 101 confirmed cases of measles reported in Ontario.

The last time the province saw more than 20 cases of measles was in 2014, when 22 cases were confirmed. 

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