Ottawa Public Health advising recent travellers to watch for measles symptoms

Ottawa Public Health is advising recent travellers that they may have been exposed to measles, especially if they were on two WestJet flights arriving and departing from Ottawa last week.

The two identified flights, both on March 22, are:

- WestJet WS610, which departed Calgary at 10:15 a.m. and arrived in Ottawa at 3:47 p.m.

- WestJet WS369, which departed Ottawa at 4:40 p.m. and arrived in Toronto at 5:42 p.m.

Ottawa Public Health said no cases of measles have been confirmed in the capital, but the advisory comes as a precautionary measure after health officials in Toronto confirmed three new cases of measles on Thursday. 

Residents who develop a fever or cold-like symptoms are being asked to contact a doctor. 

Measles is a highly contagious virus that is spread by coughing and sneezing. Ottawa Public Health said anyone who has not had two doses of a measles vaccine (MMR or MMRV) or who has not had measles in the past is at risk of infection if exposed to the virus. 

Dr. Robin Taylor, associate medical officer of health, said Ottawa has adequate immunization coverage, but recommended residents to watch for symptoms, including a red rash.

"If you know that you were on one of those two flights and you or your child developed a fever - especially if you knew that you weren't fully protected with two shots of measles vaccine - and started to develop a fever, a cough, sore eyes and a runny nose, [then] at that point in time, don't bother waiting for a rash," Taylor said.

"Call your physician and let them know." 

Steps to prevent infection

OPH offered the following tips to prevent infection of the measles virus:

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Ensure your measles immunizations are up-to-date. Individuals born after 1970 require two measles vaccinations to provide the best protection (those born before 1970 are considered immune).

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Anyone who feels they may have been exposed to measles should monitor themselves for the signs and symptoms of the illness, including high fever, cold-like symptoms such as cough or runny nose, sore eyes or sensitivity to light and a red rash.

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Anyone experiencing symptoms as described above should contact their health care provider as soon as possible and not attend work or school. Be sure to call ahead to let the health care provider know that you are coming and that you may have been exposed to measles.