Cases of measles have public health officials in western Canada on alert, especially since coming events will soon bring large numbers of people together and the disease is highly contagious.
Many older Canadians have had measles and so have lifetime immunity. Younger Canadians usually are vaccinated against the disease when they are very young.
But there are people who resist vaccination either for religious reasons or because they think that it is dangerous. Scientific evidence proves the risks from vaccination are tiny and are far outweighed by the risks of catching the disease. A study linking vaccines to autism has been completely discredited.
Low immunization rates in Alberta
14 cases of measles were confirmed in the southern part of the province of Alberta where immunization rates are low. Health authorities pleaded with residents to have their children vaccinated and 2,000 shots were administered in three weeks. The area has also previously seen outbreaks of mumps and whooping cough, all of which could have been prevented with vaccines.
While the current outbreak of measles there has died down, the neighbouring province of Saskatchewan has reported a first suspected case. Public health officials are keeping a close watch particularly since some 30,000 people are expected to come to a Canadian Football League (not soccer) play-off game on Sunday, November 10. The championship game at the end of the month will draw 50,000 people.
Measles can kill
Complications from measles can cause blindness, brain swelling, pneumonia and other conditions that can be fatal. The disease can also cause severe complications for pregnant women leading to the loss of the fetus.
Worldwide measles is one of the leading causes of death among young children. While it is less of a problem in developed countries where most children are well-nourished and generally healthy, it is still a disease of major concern to public health officials.