Measles case has health officials on alert

Perry Bergson
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Dr. Khami Chokani

The first case of the measles in Prince Albert since 2007 has the local health region warning residents that they may have been exposed to the disease.

Dr. Khami Chokani, medical health officer for the Prince Albert Parkland Health Region, told a press conference on Wednesday that a measles immunization rate of below 80 per cent is bad news for the area.

“With the low immunization rates that we do have in the region, this does have the potential for becoming more than one case,” he said.

The Prince Albert man who caught the measles — described only as an adult — was travelling with a group of people and became sick upon his return to the city. He is now completely recovered and no longer contagious.

But the threat remains that he inadvertently passed the disease on.

“The problem with red measles or rubeola is that it’s a highly infectious virus that will spread very, very quickly by air, essentially through large droplets,” he said, noting that the exposure time period can last up to two hours.

The infectious nature of the disease makes its very difficult to pinpoint exactly where the man picked up the virus.

There are three places in Prince Albert that the health region is highlighting as potential places where the public could have been exposed to measles.

• On Sept. 28 and Oct. 3, at Amy’s on 2nd Restaurant;

• On the afternoon of Oct. 1, at the Crescent Heights Family Medical Centre;

• On Oct. 3-4, from 2:30 p.m. until 4 a.m. the next morning at the Victoria Hospital emergency department.

Chokani stressed that the restaurant is safe to eat at because the virus is long gone.

The disease remains rare in Saskatchewan, where there were no cases in 2010 and just six in 2011, all of which were in Regina.

There are a number of symptoms to watch for, which usually occur eight to 12 days after exposure but can range from seven to 18 days.

• fever;

• cough;

• a red blotchy rash;

• spots in the mouth;

• runny nose;

• redness of the eyes and inner eyelids;

•  light sensitivity.

“Before you know you are sick is when you are most contagious,” Chokani says. “It’s seven days before the person presents with a rash. It’s four days before you have the fever. “

Not everyone has to worry.

The vaccine is commonly provided in childhood. If you were born in Canada before 1970, have received two doses of vaccine or have had measles, you are considered immune.

If you are worried about exposure and have some of the symptoms, see your doctor.

When you arrive at the clinic, tell them you may have been exposed to measles and have symptoms. Do not sit in the waiting room without talking to staff.

The doctor says it will be a full month without another case before he is willing to declare that the measles threat is over.

Organizations: Prince Albert, Crescent Heights Family Medical Centre, Victoria Hospital

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Regina, Canada

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