Manitoba Health has confirmed two more cases of measles in the province, bringing the total to seven so far this year.
The two new cases, reported Thursday, involve a man in his 40s living in the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and a woman in her 30s in the area served by Southern Health (south and west of the city).
Health officials believe one of the two new cases is connected to a previously reported measles case, meaning an individual was exposed to the disease through one of the earlier five people diagnosed with measles.
"One of the cases was linked to one of our earlier cases," said Dr. Michael Routledge, chief provincial public health officer, during a conference call on Thursday evening. "They were at a similar location."
Routledge declined to provide more details as to which previous case had been linked to the new case.
He said the second case announced Thursday was not connected to any of the others. Neither of the two infected individuals had travelled recently.
The health department advised that members of the public may have been exposed to the disease last Sunday if they were shopping between noon and 5 p.m. at the Sobeys grocery store at 1500 Dakota Street.
Manitoba Health advised in a statement that people who visited this location and think they might have measles or have been in close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with measles should phone their health care provider or Health Links-Info Santé at 204-788-8200 or 1-888-315-9257 (toll-free) for more information.
Routledge said there is concern as the numbers of those infected keep rising.
"The quick answer to that is yes," he said. "We're talking about a fairly small number of cases but the fact that we continue to see new cases is concerning. Measles is, as we've talked about before, highly communicable.
"It's difficult to quantify how much concern. I think the bottom line is we've had seven cases now. This is an unusual event in Manitoba. Measles is serious illness. It's not hundreds of cases but it's significant. I'm concerned but people should not be overly concerned. But people should be paying attention and taking the steps that they can take."
The seven cases include three people in their 40s, one in their 30s, two people in their 20s and one teen.
"One thing we have noticed with these cases so far is that we've got three of those cases are (people who are) in their 40s. That group, in particular, are in an age group where they may or may not have had previous measles immunizations so the message is for all Manitobans, including adults, is if they're not sure about their immunization status, now is a good time to talk to their (health care) provider about that," Routledge said.
Adults born before 1970 are generally presumed to have acquired natural immunity to measles, however, some of those individuals may be susceptible, according to a Manitoba Health news release.
The release stated that adults born in 1970 or later who do not have a record showing they received a measles vaccine, or who have not had a history of laboratory‑confirmed measles infection, should be immunized with one dose of MMR.
Health officials said symptoms of measles generally appear seven to 21 days after exposure and initial symptoms may include fever, runny nose, drowsiness, irritability and red eyes. Small white spots may also develop on the inside of the mouth or throat.
Several days after the initial symptoms, a red blotchy rash appears on the face and progresses down the body. Measles can lead to complications including ear infections, diarrhea, pneumonia (lung infection) and encephalitis (brain inflammation).
Measles is spread through droplets in the air formed when coughing or sneezing. An infected person can spread the virus from four days before the rash appears to four days after it is seen. The disease tends to be more severe in infants and young children, and can be life-threatening.
"The main thing would be that if people were to develop symptoms consistent with measles that they do end up seeing a health care provider about it, that (immunization) is valuable information to give to the health care provider because it helps in terms of making a diagnosis," Routledge said.