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What are the measles?

According to the World Health Organization, measles is a highly contagious, serious disease caused by a virus. It is characterized by a red blotchy rash, commonly causes diarrhea and pneumonia and in more severe cases can even cause brain swelling or death. Measles is an airborne disease that spreads easily through the coughs or sneezes of an infected person. It may also be spread through contact with saliva or nasal secretions of an infected individual. People can be contagious for as many as 4 days before the rash and for up to 4 days after the start of the rash.

Why has there been so much talk about measles lately?

In the past several years there have been multiple measles outbreaks. Currently we are dealing with a number of cases throughout the Niagara Region. Over the last year you may have also heard about the much larger multi-state outbreak that has occurred in the United States. This larger outbreak has been linked to some of the cases in Canada while other cases have been linked to travel to countries where measles is endemic.

What are the symptoms?
• Fever
• Runny nose
• Drowsiness
• Irritability
• Red eyes or sensitivity to sunlight
• Small white spots on the inside of the mouth and throat
• Red blotchy rash that starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body within 3 to 7 days after the start of symptoms

How can I prevent myself or my family from contracting measles?

The most important measure you can take to prevent the measles is to get vaccination with two doses of a measles-containing vaccine. The first dose of measles vaccine is typically administered at 12 months of age with a second dose administered prior to a child’s fifth birthday. All adults and children are advised to ensure that their vaccinations are up to date. For more information on whether your vaccinations are up to date, contact your health care provider or the Niagara Region public health department.

What to do if you suspect you have the measles:

• Before visiting your health care provider, be sure to contact them first and describe your symptoms over the phone so that they can take appropriate precautions before assisting you, or direct you to the most appropriate health provider.
• Contact your health care provider or Niagara Region public health at 905-688-8248, ext. 7330.

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