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Public-health officials are alerting citizens, and following up with at least 100 close contacts in Woodstock and London, after identifying a lab-confirmed case of the measles – the first in London and surrounding Middlesex County in nearly a decade.
The unidentified individual who tested positive for measles lives in London but works in Woodstock, the Middlesex-London Health Unit and Southwestern Public Health said in a joint statement Saturday afternoon.
Officials believe the person contracted the highly contagious virus during a trip to India, a part of the world with where the vaccine-preventable disease still spreads, Middlesex-London’s top public health official, Dr. Alex Summers, said Saturday.
“We are really relying, obviously, on our case and contact management team, but also on the underlying vaccination coverage that we have in our community,” he said. “We hope that we don’t see additional cases, but we have to prepare for that, which is why we’re following up with all these individuals.”
The health units were notified about the case on Friday afternoon. The individual had limited contact with others when they were infectious, public health officials say.
The person went to a London medical clinic on Feb. 15 between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. and worked overnight shifts at Nova Steel in Woodstock on Feb. 9 and Feb. 12 from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m.
Middlesex-London Health Unit contact tracers are following up with approximately 100 people who were potentially exposed at the medical clinic, Summers said.
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Southwestern Public Health, which governs Elgin and Oxford counties, is asking anyone who worked the overnight shifts at Nova Steel on Feb. 9 and Feb. 12 to contact them for follow-up and next steps.
“Measles is highly contagious,” Southwestern Public Health’s top doctor, Ninh Tran, said in a statement Saturday. “Our goal is to contain the spread and protect those who are most vulnerable.”
Measles is spread through the air and can cause complications including pneumonia, ear infections, brain infections and, in rare cases, death. People who have had a measles-containing vaccine, have been previously infected, or who were born before 1970 are generally protected from infection.
The people most at risk of infection are ones born in 1970 or later who have not received the measles vaccine or have not had a previous measles infection. Children now receive two doses of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, while many adults before the mid-1990s received just one, Summers said.
The lab-confirmed case is the first identified in London and Middlesex County since March 2014, a testament to high vaccine coverage in the region, Summers said.
“In our population, we don’t see measles transmit, despite it being so infections, because of good measles vaccination coverage,” Summers said. “The big lessons for us here is for all of us to ensure we’re up-to-date on all of our vaccines. Take the time and pull out our vaccine records, speak to our health-care provider . . . whether you’re travelling or not.”
Measles symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose and red and irritated eyes. Infected people may have small white, grey or blue spots in their mouths and a red, blotchy rash that starts on the face and spreads throughout the body.
People with symptoms should stay home and not allow visitors for at least four days after the rash starts, public health officials say. They should also call their health care provider and, depending on where they live, contact the Middlesex-London Health Unit at 519-663-5317 ext. 2330 or 519-675-7523 after hours, or Southwestern Public Health at 1-800-922-0096.