Liam Casey, The Canadian Press
Published Monday, May 13, 2019 9:36AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, May 13, 2019 2:31PM EDT
TORONTO — Two confirmed cases of measles in adults in Toronto are both travel related, the city’s public health unit said Monday as it warned the public of possible places where they may have been exposed to the virus.
The latest incidents bring the total measles cases in the city this year to five, according to Toronto Public Health data. There were five confirmed cases last year — four related to travel.
The city has been averaging five cases of measles per year over the last five years but this year could break that trend, officials said.
“It looks like we’re going to be above that this year,” said Dr. Herveen Sachdeva, the city’s associate medical officer of health. “I think that it is indicative of the fact that there is a lot of measles occurring globally and indicative that we have a lot of people travelling.”
She said the two latest cases are separate and not linked.
One person picked up measles in North America at a location where the virus is circulating and the other contracted it in southeast Asia, Sachdeva said. She couldn’t be more specific due to privacy reasons.
Sachdeva did say that both people were born after 1969, which means that they likely only had one dose of the vaccine that protects about 85 per cent of the population against measles. A second shot will up that protection level to 95 per cent.
“There is an opportunity to prevent these cases,” Sachdeva said. “People can make sure they are up to date before they travel.”
According to a recent report by Public Health Ontario, the coverage rates for students in Toronto schools in 2017-18 for the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine is 92 per cent.
“It is very contagious, infectious, particularly in an unimmunized population, but the good news in Toronto is most people are immunized,” Sachdeva said.
Toronto Public Health said that members of the public may have been exposed to the measles virus in several locations on May 5 and May 8.
Those locations include Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, Terminal 1, between 6 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. on May 5, and between 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on May 8.
Passengers on two Air Canada flights might also have been exposed to the virus — AC848 that left Toronto at 8:40 p.m. on May 5 and arrived in London Heathrow airport at 8:35 a.m. on May 6, as well as AC849 from London Heathrow arriving in Toronto at 5 p.m. on May 8.
Other locations include Remely’s Restaurant, in north Toronto between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. on May 5, and the Toronto Zoo between 1:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. on May 8.
Toronto Mayor John Tory said the new cases were troubling.
“It’s alarming to hear not just that there are outbreaks of measles happening, in one example, but an increase in the number of people who are vaccination hesitant,” he told reporters Monday.
Health Canada said there were 45 cases of measles across the country as of April 27 in Quebec, British Columbia, the Northwest Territories, Ontario, Alberta, and New Brunswick.
B.C., in particular, is dealing with an outbreak of more than two dozen cases of the highly infectious disease. It has embarked on a vaccination blitz for school-aged children that began on April 1 and included school clinics, letters to families with children and dispensing over 3,800 vaccines. The province plans 600 more in-school vaccination clinics for May and June.
The World Health Organization said the measles outbreak continues to worsen in 2019, with cases across the world up 300 per cent in the first three months compared to the year before. There are sizable outbreaks in several countries in eastern Europe, Africa, central Asia, it said.
More than 112,000 cases of measles were reported to the organization from 170 countries in the first three months of 2019.