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Health

NWT issues measles public health advisory


The Northwest Territories warned passengers who took flights through several communities on February 13 to watch for symptoms after a case of measles was confirmed.

The office of the territory's chief public health officer issued an advisory on Friday evening reporting a single "laboratory confirmed case of measles," the highly contagious and infectious disease.

The advisory states the case involves an air passenger who arrived in Inuvik from "an international destination," which is not specified.

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"The journey returning to Inuvik took them through Yellowknife and Norman Wells on February 13," reads the advisory.

In full: Read the NWT's public health advisory regarding measles

"At-risk NWT residents who travelled by plane between Yellowknife, Norman Wells, and Inuvik on February 13" should monitor for symptoms, the advisory warned.

At-risk residents include those born after 1970 who have not received two doses of a measles-containing vaccine.

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People born before 1970 are generally considered to have acquired natural immunity.

Symptoms to watch for include:

  • Fever
  • Dry cough
  • Runny nose
  • Inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis)
  • Tiny white spots with blue-white centres on a red background, found inside the mouth on the inner cheek lining
  • A skin rash with large, flat blotches

"If you have these symptoms please remain at home and call your local healthcare provider immediately," stated the advisory.

"If you have questions about your immunization record, call your local healthcare provider during regular business hours."

In detail: More information on measles

Passengers passing through Inuvik, Norman Wells, and Yellowknife by air on February 13 would have included athletes and support staff travelling to connect with Team NT's main outbound flight to the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, which departed a day later.

The advisory said healthcare staff were working to identify and follow up with anyone known to have come into contact with the person who represents the single confirmed case.

"Within six days of exposure to an active measles case, preventive treatment can reduce the risk of developing measles," the advisory read.

"Public health staff are identifying those at risk that may be eligible for this treatment. Residents in the Inuvik area can speak to a public health practitioner by calling (867) 678-5579."

Measles signs and symptoms appear from one to three weeks after exposure to the virus, the advisory stated. Measles is spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes, through close contact with an infected person, or through the sharing of food, drinks, devices, toys, and similar objects with an infected person.

"The best way to protect against measles, mumps, and rubella is to get a vaccine," the advisory concluded. "All children 12 months and over, and all adults born on or after 1970 should get this vaccine."

That statement came just a day after an infectious disease expert called for such vaccines to be made mandatory in Canada.

"Because of the persistence of ... low levels of immunization, we are absolutely at risk for having a significant outbreak," Dr Jim Kellner told the CBC in Alberta.

"Mandatory school programs is actually an idea ... whose time is here again," he said. "In addition, we do need to do a better job of positively encouraging people ... that vaccines are both effective and safe."

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