Young child in Ontario dies from measles: PHO

A Ontario public health spokesperson tells CityNews the child who died was reported by Hamilton Public Health Services.

By Lucas Casaletto

A child under the age of five has died from the measles virus, Public Health Ontario (PHO) confirmed.

It’s the first measles death in the province in over a decade. A PHO spokesperson tells CityNews the child who died was reported by Hamilton Public Health Services.

PHO said that as of Wednesday, five measles cases among unvaccinated children required hospitalization, including the infant that died from the highly contagious virus. As of May 15, there were 22 total measles cases, all in people born after 1970. This is an increase in the positivity rate since PHO’s last summary on May 9.

PHO noted that 12 of the children were unimmunized, and one child’s immunization status was unknown. Four adults were previously immunized with at least two doses of measles-containing vaccine, two were unimmunized, and three were unknown.

“In Ontario, measles has been rare, owing to the successful elimination of measles in Canada and high immunization coverage,” wrote PHO.

“As a result, measles cases are predominantly associated with travel (often referred to as ‘measles importations’). Due to an increase in measles activity globally, Ontario has begun to see more cases of measles.”

Photo courtesy: Public Health Ontario.

Six of the 22 confirmed measles cases were reported in Toronto through Toronto Public Health (TPH), and another six cases were out of Hamilton’s public health unit. Fifteen of the 22 positive cases were travel-related, and two cases occurred with unknown sources of exposure.

“Despite the misconception of measles as a harmless childhood illness, it claims over 130,000 lives worldwide annually, predominantly children,” Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases specialist at Toronto General Hospital, wrote on X.

A spokesperson for Ontario Health Minister Sylvia Jones expressed condolences to the grieving family.

In an emailed statement, Hannah Jensen also urged residents to stay up to date with their vaccinations to ensure they and their loved ones are protected against infectious diseases. The measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine is highly effective in preventing measles and its complications.

Measles symptoms usually include high fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes, and a characteristic rash that starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body.

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.”

With files from The Canadian Press

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