Health

Measles outbreak over, but NWT warns ‘we have work to do’


The Northwest Territories’ top doctor warned residents “we have work to do” as she declared a recent measles outbreak over.

On Tuesday morning, Dr Kami Kandola – chief public health officer for the NWT – said she was rescinding her earlier announcement of a measles outbreak in Inuvik.

Measles is a highly contagious and infectious disease. A first case was identified in mid-February in an unvaccinated child returning to Inuvik by air from a foreign destination. A second person showed symptoms at the end of February, and an outbreak was declared on March 6.

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Kandola said no new cases had been identified since.

“April 16 is identified as the end of the outbreak period as two full incubation periods have occurred without additional cases,” a statement issued by Kandola’s office read.

Recent outbreaks in Inuvik, Vancouver, and elsewhere have highlighted growing lapses in vaccination among Canadian children.

The territory’s first public health advisory about measles, on February 22, came one day after an infectious disease expert called for such vaccines to be made mandatory in Canada.

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“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.

On Tuesday, Kandola urged NWT residents to get themselves and their children vaccinated.

“Although this outbreak is over, we still have work to do,” her office’s statement read.

“We should continue to encourage children, adolescents and those born after 1970 to get their vaccinations.

“Higher vaccination rates prevent transmission in the community (“herd immunity”) and protect our most vulnerable residents including infants, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems who sometimes cannot be immunized.”

Data from 2013 suggested around 84 percent of NWT two-year-olds had received at least one measles vaccination – around six percent below the national figure.

However, coverage for seven-year-olds and 17-year-olds was above the national average and reported to be among the best in Canada, at 88 percent and 92 percent respectively.

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