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Toronto’s top doctor urges March Break travellers to check their measles vaccination status

Toronto residents are being asked to check their measles vaccination status before their March Break travel plans due to what the city’s top doctor is calling a global “resurgence” of the disease.

“With March Break approaching, it is a good time for everyone to check their immunization status and ensure they are fully vaccinated against measles, especially before travelling,” Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen De Villa said in a news release issued Wednesday.

The advisory comes amid an international rise in measles outbreaks, including at least five cases reported in Ontario since the start of the year. Of those cases, public health officials have said all but one was linked to recent travel.

Citing a decline in measles vaccinations globally during the COVID-19 pandemic, Toronto Public Health (TPH) said anyone who has not had two doses of a measles vaccine, such as measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) or measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella (MMRV) or has not had measles in the past, is at risk of infection.

Last month, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health warned of “potential outbreaks” of measles infection in the province and asked physicians to encourage vaccinations and report any 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,” Dr. Kieran Moore wrote in a February memo.

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

Measles vaccination is free in Ontario and all residents are eligible for a shot. TPH said school-aged children who need to catch up on their routine vaccinations can book an appointment here.

Individuals born before 1970, when measles was widely circulating, are considered to be immune from the disease, TPH said. Those unsure about a previous measles infection are encouraged to get a dose of MMMR vaccine for best protection.

Anyone born after 1970 needs two doses of the vaccine and those unsure of their vaccination status should contact their health-care provider, TPH added.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of measles include:

  • High fever
  • Cold-like symptoms
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Small spots with white centres inside the mouth
  • Sore eyes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • A red blotchy rash lasting four to seven days

What to do if you contract measles

TPH has provided the following guidance on what you should do if you think you’ve contracted measles:

  • Seek medical care if symptoms arise particularly after travel or exposure to a measles-infected person
  • Call ahead to clinics for precautionary measures and testing
  • Do not attend work or school
  • Remain watchful for symptoms even if vaccinated against measles
  • Follow medical advice promptly for proper care and containment

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