needle, shots, vaccinesA medical vaccine. (Photo by Jacob Wackerhausen/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images)

HPPH reminds of importance of measles shots

Huron Perth Public Health (HPPH) is encouraging residents to make sure they have protection against the measles virus as cases are increasing globally, including in Ontario.

According to Health Unit, measles is one of the most highly contagious infectious diseases. The virus spreads through coughing and sneezing and it can live for up to two hours in the air or on a surface.

In December 2023, the World Health Organization reported a 30-fold increase in measles cases in Europe. A rise in imported measles cases has been reported in the Americas, and there are currently four active cases in Canada – two in the Greater Toronto Area.

“Vaccination against measles is safe and effective at preventing the virus,” says Dr. Miriam Klassen, Huron Perth Medical Officer of Health. “With the recent global and provincial increase in measles cases, I encourage everyone to consider their risk for measles, for example if planning to travel internationally, and to receive a vaccination if they are at increased risk.”

Though many recover from measles within two to three weeks, measles can cause complications such as pneumonia, ear infections, diarrhea, hearing loss, brain swelling, seizures, or, rarely, death.

In Ontario, two doses of the vaccine against measles are typically given on or after the first birthday and at four to six years of age.

With increased international travel to areas with increased measles transmission expected over March Break, Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health recommends infants six to 11 months of age should be immunized with one dose of vaccine against measles and adults 18 years of age and older who have previously received one dose of vaccine against measles should receive a second dose.

Children in Ontario are required to be immunized against measles under the Immunization of School Pupils Act (ISPA).

HPPH says it is currently carrying out a review of student vaccination records as part of its regular ISPA review process, which will also identify students who may be missing a dose of measles vaccine.

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