Ontario’s chief medical officer warns of ‘potential outbreaks’ of measles

Ontario’s chief medical officer, Dr. Kieran Moore, has sent a memo to Ontario health and local public health agencies, expressing that there has been a “dramatic” rise in the number of measles cases globally.

In the memo sent on Tuesday, Moore warned agencies to prepare for a potential increase in measles cases after two were reported in Ontario: one in the Peel region and one in the City of Toronto.

Public Health Ontario describes Measles as “a highly contagious virus spread through coughing and sneezing that can live for up to two hours in the air.”

Some of the symptoms of measles include a cough, rash, fever and fatigue.

Moore continued in the memo by asking for all healthcare providers to ensure patients are up to date with vaccinations, to communicate that vaccines are highly effective in preventing disease transmission, and to publicize new cases as soon as possible.

While two cases are currently in the GTA, Moore says there are four total measles cases in Canada.

“While measles is no longer considered endemic in Canada, outbreaks can happen when susceptible individuals (e.g., unvaccinated) travel to and return from countries where measles is circulating,” Moore said in the memo. “Importation and resultant local transportation can, and has, led to measles outbreaks in Canada.”

An infant was hospitalized with measles in Toronto on Feb. 16, and Peel Public Health officials reported it was linked to international travel.

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch recently told CityNews that despite vaccination rates against measles above 90 per cent in most of Canada, there are weak links in the country’s defence against the disease.

Toronto Public Health says there was one case of measles in Toronto in 2022 and that the five-year average is two cases of measles a year.

“Health system partners in Ontario must be prepared for the continued importation of cases and potential outbreaks,” Moore continued in the memo.

Health officials say symptoms usually appear 10 days after exposure but can start anywhere from seven to 21 days after exposure. Symptoms generally last for one to two weeks.

With files from John Marchesan

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