Thu. Apr 18th, 2024

Around fifteen cases of measles have been confirmed in Canada in recent days, including around ten in Quebec.

Why a return of measles? Answers to your questions

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In most cases, measles patients are sick for about 10 days.

  • Alain Labelle (View profile)Alain Labelle

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Practically disappearing 25 years ago, measles has reappeared almost everywhere on the planet in recent years thanks to the pandemic and the debate surrounding vaccines.

It is a viral infection that can be transmitted extremely easily through direct and indirect contact. For example, it is transmitted by airborne droplets. It is therefore easy to catch it by simply being in the same room as an infected person exhaling small drops from the nose and throat.

Symptoms of measles include fever, cough, runny nose, sores in the mouth, and red eyes. Distinctive red spots also appear on the face and all over the body.

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Measles lasts 7 to 21 days, but skin lesions are usually not visible until 4 to 7 days.

More or less severe complications, such as ear infections and pneumonia, occur in three cases out of 100, but severe complications, including those affecting the central nervous system, can also occur.

It can also lead to blindness, deafness and even intellectual disability.

The disease can cause death in a proportion estimated at 1 in 3000 cases.

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The rash may last 4 to 7 days.

Yes. You should know that it is first of all a childhood illness that is generally more benign for children than for adults. Adults who catch it are usually sicker, except when certain complications present themselves in younger people.

For example, in the case of encephalitis, the consequences for a one-year-old child whose brain is not yet developed can be much more severe than for a 45-year-old adult, who may be left with after-effects, but whose central nervous system has already undergone a normal development.

As measles is extremely contagious, all birth cohorts in Quebec ended up catching the disease, explained Dr. Karl Weiss, microbiologist and specialist in infectious diseases at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, during an interview in 2019.

In Quebec in the 1900s-1920s, all children born in a year ended up catching measles. Some died, others were left with after-effects. The majority eventually survived, but it was not a benign illness.

A quote from Karl Weiss, Jewish General Hospital in Montreal

For this reason, people who were born before the introduction of the vaccine are considered immune to measles, because they must have caught it when they were young.

Internationally, before the vaccine's arrival, World Health Organization data shows that severe outbreaks regularly killed about 2.6 million people each year.

Thanks to the massive vaccination campaigns undertaken in 1971, measles practically disappeared from the planet's surface.

Cases went from several tens of millions per year to a few tens of thousands subsequently, to reach a few thousand, explained Dr. Weiss in 2019.< /p>

In Canada, there were years when there was almost no measles, rarities more than anything else.

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So much so that I, a specialist in infectious diseases, have not seen a case of measles for years. The last case of measles I had seen I was a resident in the 1990s.

A quote from Karl Weiss, Jewish General Hospital

The current resurgence is essentially due to three factors. Firstly, the appearance of nests of infection in certain countries in the grip of a civil war such as, for example, Yemen.

Parents do not think about vaccinating their children when they are in a survival situation and, often, the non-existent medical infrastructure simply does not allow it.

There is the anti-vaccine movement that appeared in the West before the pandemic, but was energized by it. Work published in 1998 in the journal The Lancethad caused panic in the world by establishing a link between the vaccine and childhood autism. The publication of the results of this study, carried out on a sample of only 12 children, led to a marked drop in vaccination in many Western countries including Canada.

The journal The Lancetrecanted in 2010 and removed the study from its archives. Much research published since has found no correlation between the onset of childhood autism and the triple MMR vaccine.

By not vaccinating their children, while you have a resurgence elsewhere in the world, you are creating fertile ground for the reappearance of cases, explained Dr. Weiss.

And the pandemic itself has led to a decline in surveillance and vaccination. The suspension of immunization services, falling immunization rates and reduced surveillance activities across the world have left millions of children vulnerable to preventable diseases like measles, notes WHO.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">Overall, the risk is low, but it is higher today than it was 20 years ago, particularly for those who have not been vaccinated. It should be remembered that more than 90% of people who are not immunized against measles who come into contact with the virus are infected.

Cases and outbreaks can still occur in the country since measles is present throughout the world and unvaccinated travelers can still bring it to Canada.

After the first dose, the vaccine is very effective beyond 85% to 95%, and after two doses it is more than 95%. However, for 25 years, the majority of children have received a second dose.

Outbreaks can still occur in populations with high vaccination coverage rates . Since measles is highly infectious, at least 95% of the population must be immunized to develop herd immunity.

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The MMR vaccine against measles, rubella and mumps.

The concept of a vaccine is to put you in the presence of an attenuated microbe to allow your body to learn how to fight it. So, when you are in his presence during your life, you will be able to fight him.

It is considered very safe. Hundreds of millions of vaccine doses have been administered with very few side effects since its inception in the 1960s.

But, like all vaccines, minor, and sometimes more severe, side effects can occur.

When you take a plane, there is always a risk. If you administer 5 million doses, maybe you're going to have one person who's going to have a significant complication from the vaccine, but you always have to put that into perspective in the face of tens of millions of people who haven't caught measles .

A quote from Karl Weiss, Jewish General Hospital

If you have symptoms of measles, you should be seen by a doctor. Before traveling, contact the health establishment to inform the staff that you may have measles. In the meantime, stay home to avoid infecting other people. The diagnosis of measles is confirmed by a blood test, urinalysis and nasopharynx swab.

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