Measles in Toronto – Tips for Concerned Parents

This morning the Toronto Community learned that over the past few days there have been 4 confirmed cases of measles in the city.  Since then, our clinic team has received many inquiries from concerned parents.  Although this situation is very fluid and can evolve fairly quickly and unpredictably, here are some general tips to consider:

1. Don’t panic.

It is important keep in mind that so far we are talking about only 4 cases in a city with a population of nearly 3 million. At this moment in time, the risk of any given person catching measles remains extremely low. Having said that, we mustn’t take this news lightly; instead of panicking, we should all take action to lower the risk of further spread through the city and beyond.

2. Get everyone in your family up to date on their vaccinations.

Make sure that you and everyone in your family and social circles are up to date on their vaccines.  For measles, everyone over the age of 4 should have been immunized with the MMR vaccine twice.  Everyone between 1 year old and 4 years old should have had at least 1 MMR vaccine.  Vaccination is the best way to proactively keep ourselves and our communities safe from the spread of measles. So if you or anyone in your family is behind on vaccines, make arrangements to bring everyone’s immunizations up to date as soon as you possibly can.

3. Take special precautions for babies less than 1 year old.

If you have a baby less than 1 year old, s/he has likely not yet received a measles vaccine and may not be immune to measles. It is probably worthwhile making the effort to ensure that anyone and everyone who comes in contact with the baby be up to date on their vaccines. This is called vaccine cocooning.  If any person is not up to date, consider saying something like “if you want to spend time with my baby, you’ll have to get your vaccinations up to date”.

Some physicians and public health experts are recommending that babies between 6 and 12 months of age receive a measles vaccine to cover them until their first birthday.  Speak with your physician about this option if you have a baby in that age range.

4. In a case of suspected measles, contact your doctor’s office (by phone or email) or local public health department first.

If you suspect that your child has measles, your first step should not be to go straight to the doctor’s office or the local walk-in clinic. There may be infants less than 1 year old and/or other vulnerable patients in these clinic waiting rooms who require protection.  Instead, contact your child’s doctor (by phone or email) or the public health department in your region to seek further guidance in terms of next steps to take.

Remember: If you have any specific questions or concerns, it is important to communicate with your or your child’s primary care practitioner. He or she is in the best position to help.