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Advising vigilance with vaccines, WECHU says Windsor saw its first measles case in 20 years last month

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Windsor-Essex saw its first confirmed case of measles in 20 years at the end of last month, according to the region's medical officer of health who is reminding people to stay up to date with their vaccines ahead of March Break.

"As people go out of the country, we want them to be aware of the risk of measles. Earlier this year, the World Health Organization alerted that the risk of measles is 30-fold," said Dr. Mehdi Aloosh.

The sole measles case in Windsor-Essex was confirmed four days after a Jan. 26 warning was issued for a "possible measles exposure." It stemmed from an overseas flight between Romania and Toronto's Pearson Internatonal Airport.

Measles cases have recently spiked in Europe and the United States. According to Ontario's chief medical officer of health, there are four active cases of measles in the province.

Amid the worldwide surge of meales cases, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) issued a reminder to the community Wednesday to ensure they are up to date with their vaccinations, including the measles vaccine, prior to travelling for March Break.

"Individuals who are not fully vaccinated can get measles when travelling to countries where the disease is circulating. Please contact your health care provider to confirm whether you are immune to measles. If needed, measles vaccination should ideally be given at least two weeks before departure," WECHU's statement reads.

Calling the measles virus "highly contagious," the health unit said it spreads easily in the air when an infected person coughs, talks, or sneezes, and then another person breathes in the virus particles in the air, even up to two hours after the person with the infection has left a closed space.

"It can also be spread by direct contact with the mucus or saliva (spit) of a person with measles. Like many other viruses, the measles virus can enter a person’s mouth or nose through kissing or sharing food and drinks," the WECHU added.

The public is advised to alert their health care provider if they start to have the following symptoms, "with or without a blotchy red rash" which starts on the face and then moves down the body:

  • High fever
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Red and watery eyes
  • Tiny white spots on the inside of the mouth and throat

Anyone exposed to measles is urged to isolate themselves and immediately call a health care professional.

"In Windsor and Essex County, we have already had our first case of measles after two decades," said Aloosh.

"So this is a reminder for our community as they pack and they prepare for travelling, bring their sunscreen and mosquito repellant — to talk to their physician about their specific health needs and ensure they are up to date with the vaccines."

— with files from CTV's Stefanie Masotti.

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