Child under 5 dies after being hospitalized for measles: Public Health Ontario

Public Health Ontario says a young child has died after being hospitalized for measles — the first such death in more than a decade.

A report published Thursday says the child was under five years old and not immunized against the virus.

Hamilton Public Health Services confirmed Friday that the child was a resident of Hamilton, but would not provide details of the case for privacy reasons.

The Public Health Ontario report shows there were no other measles-related deaths recorded in the province between Jan. 1, 2013, and this week.

The agency says there have been 22 confirmed cases of measles in Ontario this year, 13 of them in children.

It says 12 of the children were not immunized against measles and the other had an unknown immunization status.

Five of the children, including the one who died, required hospitalization.

"A measles-related death is a rare and tragic event," Public Health Ontario said in a statement Friday. "Our thoughts are with the family during this difficult time."

Dr. Brendan Lew, Hamilton's associate medical officer of health, said in a statement that there have been six confirmed cases of measles in the city so far this year, all of whom were unvaccinated.

"This is a profoundly tragic situation where a young child has left us too soon with their whole life ahead of them," Lew said.

Hannah Jensen, a spokesperson for Ontario Health Minister Sylvia Jones, also expressed condolences to the grieving family.

In an emailed statement, Jensen also urged residents to stay up to date with their vaccinations to ensure they and their loved ones are protected against infectious diseases.

Speaking in Winnipeg on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the child's death "a tragedy that nobody wants to see."

"I can't imagine what that family is going through right now, but I do know as a parent that all of us want the absolute best for our kids," he said.

"I recommend that everyone listens to their doctors, their health professionals on how to keep their kids safe."

Dr. Anna Banerji, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of Toronto's Dalla Lana School of Public Health, said the child's death should be a wake-up call.

"(It) reinforces that measles can be a very serious infection and can cause lifelong consequences. And it can cause death," she said in a phone interview Friday.

"So again, it's a reminder that we have to keep our guard up, and that the vaccine works."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 17, 2024.

The Canadian Press