MUHC visitors may have been exposed to measles at Glen site
The MUHC is alerting people that visited its Glen site between March 23 and 27 that they may have been exposed to measles.
In a release, the hospital said that an employee with the virus worked at the site in the cardiac surgery, intensive care, cardiovascular/heart failure and transplant clinic or infectious diseases clinic during that five-day stretch. It affects adult sections of the Glen only. The employee worked between the hours of 7:45 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.
Health officials are asking people who were present at those sections of the site during those dates and hours to confirm their immunization status. Anyone who has been immunized does not need to be concerned.
If they are not immunized, they should call the MUHC at 514-934-8007. Anyone who may have visited and was not a patient should call Info-Sante at 811 for advice.
“Though the employee in question had limited contact with patients and staff during the incubation period, it is vital that we take all necessary measures to ensure the disease is not spread further within the MUHC,” said Dr. Marie-Astrid Lefebvre, MUHC Infectious Diseases Specialist, in the statement.
“For the moment, there is no evidence that the disease has been transmitted to other people, but we will continue to monitor the situation closely until the end of the incubation period. In addition, we are reassured that the vast majority of people exposed are most likely immune to the measles virus.”
That there have been no new cases highlights the critical importance of vaccines, say doctors.
Symptoms of measles include fever, cough, runny nose, stuffy nose, red eyes, and tiny, white spots in the mouth.
Why did it take so long to report?
For those wondering why it took so long for the information to come to light, it is because the patient was only diagnosed with measles on April 5.
“The individual in question developed very vague symptoms on March 23rd that lasted until March 26th that were not severe enough that he could not work, so he worked in hospital, then developed the more classic rash,” said Lefebvre.
No cause for alarm, thanks to immunization
The contagious incubation stage usually lasts from seven to 14 days, and sometimes as long as 21 days. That said, Lefebvre said there’s no need for alarm.
“Our level of concern is low because, again, the exposure was in a very circumscribed area of the hospital, within a very defined period of time. Again, there was limited patient contact. Although measles is spread through the air and can infect people in the same room even without contact, we’re also reassured by the fact that the vast majority of individuals in Quebec are immune, thanks to our very robust immunization program,” said Lefebvre.
Registered letters have been sent to patients who were possibly exposed, and if officials couldn’t establish if a patient had been vaccinated, blood samples have been taken.
All MUHC staff has to be vaccinated before they are permitted to work there, as policy – which is likely the reason there hasn’t been a second case.
If the employee was vaccinated, how did he contract the disease?
The theory is that the employee caught measles from someone while on vacation in the Caribbean. He had been vaccinated, and it is a very effective vaccine, but Lefebvre said the MUHC has two hypotheses on why he was still susceptible.
“In a very small percentage of people – roughly less than 5 percent of individuals – two situations can happen. The first situation is that a person could not mount optimal antibody or immune response to the vaccine, and another situation that can occur is that with time, with age, the longer the time is from the receipt of the last dose of the MMRA vaccine, the protection level can wane,” she explained.
The employee recovered from his bout with the measles very quickly with no complications and is back at work.
Dr. Lefebvre attributes that to his partial immunity from the vaccine he received many years ago.