Elliot Lake patient’s measles diagnosis could be example of new Ontario virus

ELLIOT LAKE—On Sunday, February 22, Algoma Public Health (APH) announced a confirmed measles case in Elliot Lake.

“APH is issuing an important public advisory to individuals who may have been in contact with a confirmed case of measles in a child in Elliot Lake,” stated a press release from APH on Sunday. “Individuals who attended the St. Josephs General Hospital emergency department in Elliot Lake on the following dates and times may have been exposed to measles: February 5 between 1 and 6 pm, February 6 between 8:50 am and 3 pm, February 11 between 8 am and 2:30 pm and February 13 between 8:30 am and 3:30 pm.”

“Anyone attending the hospital emergency department during these time periods is asked to check their immunization status and call APH for assessment,” said Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, acting medical officer of health, in the release. “Measles is very contagious and can cause serious disease. Anyone born before 1970 is considered protected against measles but others require one or two doses of vaccine to be protected.”

APH staff can be reached at 705-759-5409 and will be available for extended hours. Free drop-in vaccination clinics are scheduled for the APH Elliot Lake office, located at 50 Roman Ave.

“The child with confirmed measles also attended a local daycare,” the release continues. “APH is working with the daycare to directly contact parents and staff to ensure everyone is protected against measles. Anyone not protected will not be allowed to attend the daycare.”

“There is a measles outbreak in Ontario and now we have confirmed measles circulating in the Algoma district,” says Jon Boom, APH acting director of clinical services. “All residents are reminded to check their and their children’s immunization status. Please also watch for the signs and symptoms of measles which include high fever, cold-like symptoms, sore eyes or sensitivity to light and a red rash lasting four to seven days.”

As of Monday, the Elliot Lake case brings the number up to 19 confirmed cases in Ontario, in addition to 19 in Quebec, one in Manitoba and hundreds of confirmed cases across the United States.

The Globe and Mail reported on Monday that, “the version of the measles virus circulating in Ontario is a variant that has never before been reported to the World Health Organization database that contains descriptions of more than 22,000 slightly different viral sequences of the measles virus found across the globe.”

“The measles virus is constantly mutating, meaning subtly distinct versions are regularly added to the global storehouse,” said Mathew Gilmore, the new scientific director general who oversees Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, where the genetic sequencing was done, reported The Globe and Mail. “It’s new to us now, but as other counties uncover this virus as well, they’ll have a chance to put it in the same database,” continued Dr. Gilmore. “The puzzle will start to become clear then as to what the actual origin of this strain is.”

Anyone on Manitoulin who is unsure of their immunization status is urged to contact the Sudbury and District Health Unit at 1-866-522-9200.