Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Measles hot spots on the rise

Province won't make vaccinations mandatory, despite concerns

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The MTS Centre and a popular children's hair salon joined the growing list of measles hot spots Friday.

The number of cases of measles in Manitoba remained at seven on Friday, but provincial officials named several more "potential transmission settings," including:

-- Hair-Do Zoo, 845 Dakota St.: April 11, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; April 12, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; April 14, 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.

-- The MTS Centre: April 12, 6:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m., professional bull riders event.

-- Shoppers Drug Mart, 785 Dakota St.: April 14, 8:30 a.m. to 8:45 a.m.

-- UPS, 845 Dakota St.: April 14, 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.

-- Sobey's grocery, 1500 Dakota St.: April 13, noon to 5 p.m.

Officials released the possible transmission settings Friday in an effort to alert the general public, in particular the 15 to 20 per cent of Manitobans who are currently unimmunized.

"The people we're most concerned are those who are unimmunized," said Dr. Tim Hilderman, a medical officer for Manitoba Health. "Those are the people at greatest risk."

It's important to note the listed locations are now safe, as the transmission period for the airborne virus only lasts during the posted time periods.

Hilderman said the virus is transmitted largely by saliva, sweat and coughing. "With measles, sharing airspace increases the risk of exposure," he said.

The amount of people at any transmission location -- from only a handful at the UPS store to several hundred at the bull-riding event at the MTS Centre -- can increase the possibility of exposure. Hilderman noted one of the original measles-transmission settings included the Manitoba Winter Games, yet "It didn't produce any secondary cases and we would have expected to have seen those by now."

Manitoba Health raised concerns Friday that almost one in five Manitobans has not been immunized. But Health Minister Erin Selby said through an aide on Friday Manitoba does not plan to make measles vaccinations mandatory.

The department advised in a statement people who visited a hot-spot 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.

Two new cases were reported Thursday involving a man in his 40s living in the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority area 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 case, meaning an individual was exposed to the disease through one of the earlier five people diagnosed with measles.

Meanwhile, "One of the cases was linked to one of our earlier cases," Dr. Michael Routledge, chief provincial public health officer, said Thursday. "They were at a similar location."

Routledge declined to provide more details as to which previous case had been linked to the new case. Routledge said there is concern as the numbers of those infected keep rising.

"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 a 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," Routledge said. "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."

Adults born before 1970 are generally presumed to have acquired natural immunity to measles; however, some of those individuals may be susceptible, Manitoba Health said.

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 vaccine.

"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.

Hilderman said Manitoba wants to get to at least 95 per cent immunization.

"Typically what happens is it (the outbreak) eventually peters out," he said.

But, he said, "As the number of cases grows, the potential to get into an unimmunized pocket and produce a large number of cases...that does exist. I'd like to tell you that possibility doesn't exist, but it does."

randy.turner@freepress.mb.ca ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 19, 2014 A3

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