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Two Outaouais residents with measles after returning from abroad treated at Ottawa hospital

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Ottawa Public Health says it is contacting Ottawa residents who were exposed to the measles after two cases were confirmed in residents of the Outaouais who returned to Canada from abroad.

Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Laura Bourns said in a news release on OPH's website that it is reaching out directly to anyone who was exposed to the cases. 

"Both cases are linked to international travel and went directly to hospital upon their return to Canada," Bourns said.

The Outaouais public health department, the centre intégré de santé et des services sociaux (CISSS) de l'Outaouais, confirmed in an email to CTV News Ottawa that the two patients were treated at a hospital in Ottawa after returning to Canada on Monday, Oct. 9. They were from the same family and had not been vaccinated against the measles. 

"They were not in the Outaouais territory during their contagious period," the CISSS de l'Outaouais said in French. "All individuals believed to have been exposed to the cases were identified and offered prophylaxis. Ultimately, there was no exposure in Outaouais."

Ottawa Public Health did not say how many people it contacted, but in a statement to CTV News Ottawa attributed to Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Trevor Arnason, said it has been successful in reaching "almost all the Ottawa residents who may have been exposed."

Arnason says, "At this time, the risk to the general population remains low."

When OPH contacts anyone who has been exposed to measles, they are advised to:

  • Verify their immunization records to determine if they are protected against measles. Vaccination or immunoglobulin are available for susceptible contacts.
  • Seek medical attention if they develop symptoms of measles.
  • Call ahead to the health care facility/practice and tell their health care provider that they have recently been exposed to measles.

Early onset symptoms of measles include fever, cough, coryza, conjunctivitis, drowsiness, and small spots with white centers on the inside of the mouth, called Koplik's spots. These are followed by the disease's characteristic rash on the face, spreading down to other parts of the body. Measles is transmitted through close contact with the respiratory secretions of a case or through persistence of airborne nuclei in the air for up to two hours.

OPH says measles is considered contagious from one day before symptom onset (or four days before rash onset, whichever is longer) to four days after rash onset. The measles incubation period (from exposure to rash onset) is from seven to 21 days. Secondary cases from this exposure could occur anytime up to and including Oct. 30, Bourns said.

A measles-containing vaccine is part of Ontario's routine immunization schedule; however, the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting school closures disrupted routine immunization for thousands of children in the capital. Similar disruptions have been reported in Quebec. 

CHEO CEO Alex Munter said on the social media site Threads that CHEO physicians, public health units and health centres have teamed up to make routine childhood vaccinations available at the Kids Come First vaccine clinics

According to the Mauricie and central Quebec health unit, the family had returned from Brussels, landing at the Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport in Montreal on Monday. The two children with the measles were contagious while on the flight, and Quebec's Ministry of Health has contacted the people aboard. Everyone else in the airport is not considered a significant contact, but is urged to monitor for symptoms, the health unit said in French.

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, the ministry said it was informed of the infections on Oct. 11.

"The epidemiological investigation made it possible to determine that these people took the plane when they were contagious," the ministry said in French. "Passengers who were on board their flight were contacted to inform them of their potential exposure to measles and to provide them with recommendations. In some cases, if indicated, these people could be offered preventive treatment."

The ministry said Quebec typically sees up to four cases of measles per year, unless there is an outbreak, and these cases are usually linked to travel. 

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