A formal measles outbreak has been declared for three areas of the province — including the Central Zone.
The declaration from Alberta Health Services comes with a few changes on how the health authority is dealing with those who may be particularly vulnerable to contracting the disease.
— Infants between the age of six months and one year who live in the Central, Calgary or Edmonton zones or will be travelling within the areas are eligible to receive an early additional dose of the measles vaccine. The early dose will also be available to any children within the age range who are travelling to other jurisdictions where outbreaks have occurred, including the United States, Brazil, the Philippines, Japan, Australia, the United Kingdom.
— Children aged four and over who attend day cares, day homes or schools within the three outbreak zones who have not received their second dose of the measles vaccine are advised to get it as soon as possible.
A seventh case of measles in Central Alberta was reported last week, and more than 20 has occurred in the province in 2014, mostly limited to Calgary, Edmonton and Central Alberta. Last year, Southern Alberta experienced an outbreak when over 40 cases were reported.
Infants typically receive the first of two doses of the measles vaccine at the age of 12 months. AHS says the early dose it is making available will provide short-term protection during the period of “increased risk of exposure.” Children should still receive the two regular doses even if receiving the early shot.
Typically, children receive their second shot between the ages of four and six. Approximately 40 students at a Red Deer elementary school who have not received the second shot were ordered to stay home from school for three weeks earlier this month, after a child at the school contracted measles.
AHS notes that any persons who have already received both of the regular doses do not require any additional vaccine against measles.
Measles vaccine is offered free of charge at all times, and will continue to be available by appointment through public health offices. No special immunization clinics have yet been planned.
Anyone uncertain about their own or their child’s immunization history can contact their local public health office or Health Link Alberta at 1-866-408-5465 to find out their status.
The Central Zone stretches from Drayton Valley to Sundre in the west and Drumheller to Lamont and Lloydminster in the east.