You Need to Know about Measles

vaccine injection

By Christa Poirier, Registered Nurse, and Jason Haug, Program and Project Management Officer, Ottawa Public Health

Vaccines are a proven and safe way to prevent serious infections. Although we rarely see most of the diseases that we vaccinate for in Canada, they still exist. If we stop vaccinating children, these diseases will return. Vaccines sometimes even prevent death.

An example of this is Measles. In 2014 and 2015 we saw new measles cases appearing in North America, and even locally in Ottawa.

What is Measles?

Measles can be a serious infection that causes high fever, cough, rash, runny nose, and watery eyes.  One out of every 10 children who has measles develops ear infections or pneumonia (lung infection). About one out of every 1,000 children with measles develops encephalitis, an infection of the brain. This may cause brain damage and developmental delays. Measles can also cause a pregnant woman to have a miscarriage or to give birth prematurely.

Measles is very contagious. It spreads from person to person easily and quickly. People can get measles from an infected person who is coughing or sneezing around them or simply talking to them. It is contagious four days before the onset of rash and up to four days after. Measles lasts for one to two weeks.

Answering your questions about Measles

On the Parenting in Ottawa Facebook page (Facebook.com/ParentinginOttawa), our public health nurse, Christa Poirier, has answered your questions about Measles. Here’s a sample of what has come up:

Question: Do attendees of all licensed daycare facilities have to be up-to-date with their immunizations? I am looking into daycare for when I return to work and would prefer to have him in an environment with all immunized staff and preferably all immunized children. What are the regulations regarding this?

Answer: Yes, children are required to have their immunizations up to date at licensed child care facilities. However, similar to the publicly funded school system, there are narrow parameters for exemption from immunization such as religious beliefs and medical exemptions. You can visit the following page to learn more about immunization requirements for daycares: http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/public/programs/immunization/infants.aspx#7

Question: I keep hearing about two doses of MMR. My son is 14 months and received one dose at 12 months. When is the second dose? Is he still protected if he’s only had it once?

Answer: Yes, your son is protected. The first dose is given and offers up to 95 per cent immunity. The second dose offers up to 100 per cent between the ages of four and six. Because of the five per cent, and those who are too small to be vaccinated, we want a community of protection around our little ones to help keep them healthy.

Question: I’m traveling to Florida with my six-month-old baby and four-year-old twins. Obviously my twins have been vaccinated, but the baby is too young to get the vaccine— correct? I have been following a thread in a mom group I am in and some members have had their six-month-olds receive the MMR vaccine at the six-month checkup? Is this effective? Should I ask my doctor to let my baby have it also?

Answer: the MMR vaccine is available at six months, but your baby would still require two more doses on the regular schedule: one between 12 and 15 months and another between the ages of four and six. This is a discussion you should have with your health-care provider to see if the early vaccine is right for your baby.

Remember to report all your child’s immunizations to Ottawa Public Health. Learn more at ParentinginOttawa.ca/immunization

Do you have more questions?

  • Speak with a Public Health Nurse. Call the Ottawa Public Health Info Line (OPHIL) at 613 580-6744 (TTY: 613 580-9656) or email Ottawa Public Health at healthsante@ottawa.ca
  • Visit the Parenting in Ottawa website (ParentinginOttawa.ca)
  • Connect with a Public Health Nurse and other parents on the Parenting in Ottawa Facebook page (Facebook.com/ParentinginOttawa).
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