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Second Red Deer student catches measles

A second student from Mattie McCullough Elementary School and seventh person overall in Central Alberta has contracted measles, Alberta Health Services announced Thursday.

The most recent case is considered connected to one announced April 11 that identified the local school as a possible exposure site. Associated with the case announced Thursday is one additional potential exposure site — the Boston Pizza restaurant at 3215 Gaetz Ave. in Red Deer, from 12:30-3:45 p.m. on April 21.

Any individuals present at the eatery at that time who were born after 1970 and have never contracted measles themselves or have not received two doses of the measles vaccine could be susceptible. AHS offered a free immunization clinic on Thursday specifically for such people, with a number of individuals attending to receive the vaccine.

While AHS personnel were able to contact the restaurant owners and staff to inform them of the issue, because it is a public space, AHS had no way to individually contact all those who may have been exposed.

Adding to the challenge is that symptoms in those who contract the virus often do not develop for many days. Exposures like the Boston Pizza one may be possible in the meantime, and those who may be susceptible will only be immune if vaccinated within 72 hours of exposure.

“We got the notification (Wednesday) that the child had the rash and so we decided to try to notify staff and the public today and do what we could realizing it was extremely short notice,” said medical officer of health Dr. Digby Horne on Thursday.

AHS noted that the Boston Pizza location does not present an ongoing health risk.

Among the seven measles cases in the AHS central zone in 2014, one person has been hospitalized and another person visited a hospital.

Large outbreaks have occurred in B.C., southern Alberta and overseas nations over the last year, and Horne said one could still occur here, particularly with importations remaining possible from those jurisdictions.

The student afflicted in the most recent case had been one of 40 Mattie McCullough pupils ordered to stay away from the school after the first school-related case was identified on April 11. Horne said there were some issues in sending out “exclusion orders” to students after the case was reported, as the notifications went out to parents via registered mail.

A letter from the province’s chief medical officer went to all school divisions and parents of school-aged children last week, informing them of outbreak risks. If an unvaccinated child attends a school where measles has been identified, he or she could be mandated to stay home from school for three weeks.

One of the seven cases reported from the Central Zone befell a person who was fully immunized against measles. In Calgary, three of the first four cases for 2014 hit fully-vaccinated persons.

Horne said cases of primary or secondary vaccine failure are unusual. The former refers to instances where for some reason two doses do not work for an individual, the latter when the immunity the shots provide wanes over time.

Most of the potential exposure sites related to the seven cases have been in Red Deer. Other locations included Blackfalds, Stettler, and Camrose.

Symptoms of measles include high fever, a rash occurring three to seven days after the fever starts, and coughing, runny nose and red eyes. If symptoms are realized, individuals are advised to stay home and call Health Link Alberta at 1-866-408-5465 before visiting a health care facility.

As of Thursday, the provincial total for measles cases in 2014 was 20. Between January 1, 2001, and December 31, 2011, there were only 25 cases of measles reported in the province.

mfish@reddeeradvocate.com

 

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