Health Care

2nd case of measles in Saint John area is related to the 1st

The second confirmed case of measles in the Saint John area is related to the first, the province’s chief medical officer of health confirmed on Tuesday.

The affected individual at Kennebecasis Valley High School, who was identified Monday and is now isolated at home, was at the Saint John Regional Hospital’s emergency department at the same time as the first patient in April, said Dr. Jennifer Russell.

Public health officials continue to work with officials at the Quispamsis school to identify anyone who may have been exposed to the most recent case of the highly contagious respiratory disease to determine if their vaccinations are up to date, said Russell.

She could not say how many people that could be or estimate what percentage of students are vaccinated.

KVHS has more than 1,100 students and more than 100 staff, according to its website.

Other potential locations people may have come into contact with the affected individual include:

  • Shadow Lawn Inn in Rothesay on May 6 during lunch.
  • The John Cleese show at Harbour Station on May 7 at 7:30 p.m., in section 26, rows 14-20 and section 27, rows 14-24. About 1,600 people attended.

People infected with the measles virus can be contagious four days before the rash appears, up until four days after, say health officials. (Submitted by Emmanuel Bilodeau)

Anyone who was at those locations during those times is urged to contact their health-care provider to ensure they’ve had the two recommended doses of the measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (MMRV) vaccine, said Russell.

If they haven’t, they should, she said.

It’s too late to protect them from this particular event but would protect them from possible future exposure to the virus, which is transmitted through the air or by direct contact.

A dedicated phone line has been set up to help people check their immunization record — 643-6251.

About 5,000 doses of the vaccine are available.

An immunization clinic is being planned for the school, she said.

“If things escalate to where we need more human resources, we do have a contingency plan to pull extra resources.”

Measles can be more severe in adults, infants and pregnant women. Complications can include ear infections, pneumonia, blindness and swelling of the brain, which can cause seizures, deafness, brain damage or death. If contracted during pregnancy, it can cause premature labour, miscarriage and low birth weight.

Adults born before 1970 are considered immune, but some people born between 1970 and 1995 have not had their second shot, said Russell.

Public health officials are working on transferring immunization records to an electronic database so information about vaccination rates is readily available, but it’s “quite a large project” and is expected to take about 18 months to complete, she said.

The MMRV vaccine is free for babies aged 12 to 18 months in New Brunswick. Adults born in 1970 or later can receive a free vaccine if they haven’t already had the recommended two doses. (CBC)

Measles symptoms usually begin within eight to 12 days after infection and may include fever, cough, runny nose, red or sore eyes, sleepiness, irritability and tiny white spots in the mouth.

Within three to seven days, the classic red blotchy rash usually develops on the face and then spreads to the rest of the body.

People can be contagious for up to four days before the rash develops until four days after.

Anyone who believes they have symptoms consistent with the measles should isolate themselves and seek medical attention, said Russell.

They should call ahead before visiting their family doctor, clinic or emergency room so proper precautions can be taken to prevent others from being exposed, she said.

Measles is diagnosed through blood and urine tests and swabs of the nose and throat.

‘Some people got lackadaisical’

Dr. Mike Simon said his Saint John practice, like other family practices in the city, has seen an increase in calls since the first confirmed case was announced.

It has helped raise awareness about the importance of immunization against the disease that was “basically eradicated years ago,” he said.

“Some people got lackadaisical about it. So now you’re bringing that to the forefront of their minds.”

One in 10 people who get measles will have side-effects, one in 1,000 will get encephalitis and brain damage, and one or two of every 1,000 children will die, said Simon.

Dr. Mike Simon said one or two out of every 1,000 children who get measles will die, so he stressed the importance of immunization. (CBC)

But one vaccine offers about 85 per cent protection, and two doses are almost 100 per cent effective, he said.

“So people can get in there, get fixed up and we can hopefully, down the road, erase that worry from their mind.

“And people can get into the regular habit now of — ‘I’m not going to question the vaccine. We’re going to get it, we’re going to protect the public, protect the kids especially.'”

There is no cure for the disease. Treatment is meant to relieve symptoms and prevent complications.

Most people fully recover in about 10 days.

Last case in province was in 2017

The first confirmed case of measles in Saint John was announced on April 26. The individual, who had recently travelled to Europe, visited the Halifax Infirmary’s emergency department for unrelated symptoms on April 17 before going to the Saint John Regional Hospital’s emergency room or X-ray/CT department several times between April 18 and April 22.

The two Saint John-area cases are the first confirmed ones in the province since 2017, when a student at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton was affected.

Health officials have not released any information about the affected individuals, citing privacy.

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