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Quebec public health calls measles a 'threat' in the province

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In a letter to physicians, Montreal Public Health confirmed a case of measles was reported in Laval this week.

It is the third known case in the Montreal region since the start of February.

"What is concerning us a lot is that there might have been so far one case that has been in inducing the transmission in the community," said Quebec public health director Dr. Luc Boileau.

Thanks to a successful vaccination campaign, measles was eliminated in Canada in 1998.

That means that there were zero transmissions within the country.

However, cases are on the rise around the world, and in Quebec, vaccine levels have started to drop.

"We became complacent, and as a result of that, you start having clusters of cases," said infectious disease specialist Dr. Donald Vinh.

Vinh said that since the COVID-19 pandemic, experts are seeing more vaccine skepticism and fatigue.

"Measles is the one that can capitalize on that; a decline in vaccination rates because it is such a transmissible virus and because globally there are still hot hotspots or pockets of measles in other parts of the world," he said.

Ahead of March Break, public health is urging Quebecers to double-check their vaccine status and make sure they are immunized before travelling abroad.

Speaking about Canadians who might travel to down south, Boileau said, "Then they're in Florida where there are many cases and some might be exposed and come back with that infection. This is a threat that we are looking at very seriously."

To prevent circulation, experts say that at least 95 per cent of the population needs to be fully vaccinated.

In Quebec, the rate has slipped to somewhere in the mid 80s.

Public health is most concerned about the fact that there are some schools where vaccination rates are even lower.

"We have some schools that are very low and we have to really promote the vaccination quite fast," said Boileau.

On Thursday, parents received a letter from public health warning of two recent cases in Montreal in a single school.

"It's scary," said English Parents Committee Association President Katherine Korakakis. "That's what we're hearing, and it just seems like it doesn't end. There's one thing after another."

Measles can cause paralysis, brain damage and even death in young children. Two shots of the vaccine is nearly 100 per cent effective in preventing infection.

In addition, immunity lasts a lifetime. 

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