Education will prevent measles outbreak in Quebec, experts say
A measles outbreak in Europe has left dozens dead this year, and thousands infected.
Quebec has had smaller outbreaks of the virus in recent years – and doctors are hoping the extremely contagious and dangerous disease won’t come back.
Once considered to be a thing of the past in the developed world, measles is making headlines once again.
“It’s actually one of the most contagious diseases known to man,” explained Dr. Jesse Papenburg, a pediatric infectious disease specialist.
“Approximately 90 per cent of people who get exposed to the measles virus, if they don’t have protective antibodies, will contract the infection,” he added.
In Europe, the number of people infected with the virus has increased dramatically, hitting record highs this year.
“Forty one thousand cases notified and 37 deaths, and the majority of cases are occurring in Italy, in France, in Greece, and the Ukraine – but for different reasons in different countries,” said Helen Bedford, Professor of child health at University College in London.
It’s something that specialists at the Montreal Children’s Hospital are watching closely.
Measles can lead to serious complications, including pneumonia, deafness, encephalitis, and even death.
Experts say some hesitate to vaccinate because of religion, or because they’ve heard stories about adverse reactions.
Many still worry about a fraudulent British study from 20 years ago that claimed there was a link between vaccines and autism – a claim that had no basis in reality.
England has seen 800 cases of measles this year, mostly teens and young adults.
The story, however, is much different here at home.
“Currently in Quebec, there are no outbreaks of measles, thankfully,” Papenburg added. “In Canada, there have been only 20 cases of measles reported thus far this year.”
But Quebec has faced outbreaks in the past, originating from travellers.
More than 700 cases were reported in the Mauricie in 2011, and more than 100 were infected in the Lanaudiere region in 2015.
Unlike other provinces, vaccinations are not mandatory in Quebec.
Dr. Papenburg says doctors at the Children’s talk to parents regularly about their vaccination concerns.
“The fear of the disease sometimes becomes less important than the fear of some potential, theoretical, or even non-existent side effects of the vaccine,” he added.
He says it’s important to educate about how dangerous measles can be in order to prevent what’s happening in Europe from happening here.