10 measles cases identified in Quebec, 7 in Montreal, public health officials say


Quebec’s public health director is asking Quebecers to make sure they and their children are properly vaccinated against the measles, as cases of the virus are on the rise in the province, especially in Montreal. 

Dr. Luc Boileau said health officials have so far counted 10 measles cases in Quebec. At least three are related to international travel, but Boileau said a small number of cases are suspected to have been caused by community transmission. 

“That’s what worries us,” Boileau said in a news conference Monday with Montreal’s public health director, Dr. Mylène Drouin, and a microbiologist and pediatric infectious diseases specialist, Dr. Caroline Quach-Thanh. 

“Measles is more contagious than COVID. The majority of people who are in contact with measles and are not vaccinated will contract the virus,” he said. 

“The numbers can go up fast, very fast.”

Seven of the province’s 10 cases are in Montreal, which has a lower vaccination rate than some other regions, though the rates across the province vary greatly, Boileau said. Most of those infections are in children, some of whom were hospitalized, “but none of them were severe cases, thankfully,” said Quach-Thanh. 

Boileau said “vaccination fatigue” and a rise in cases in Europe and other countries is leading to the transmission of measles cases in Canada. 

“We want to insist on vaccination. It’s free, safe, efficient and acts quickly,” he said. “We’re not in the same situation as we were with COVID, where we had to take significant public health measures, but there is a real concern.”

The last known case in Quebec was in 2019, according to Drouin. 


The measles vaccine is covered by Quebec’s immunization program. The Health Ministry’s goal is to see every region reach a 95 per cent vaccination rate. 

Drouin said vaccination rates at Montreal schools hover around 80 per cent. Montreal public health is targeting schools with low rates to urge parents to have their children vaccinated, even in some cases calling individual families, Drouin said. 

In schools with the lowest measles vaccination percentages, a third of pupils are vaccinated, Drouin said. However, a lack of data for newly-immigrated children factors into the low rates.

The agency sent a letter ahead of March break to parents reminding them to get their children vaccinated if they aren’t already. Drouin said it will be important for people to monitor themselves for symptoms once they return to school and work after the break.

The two-dose vaccine against measles is more than 95 per cent effective at preventing infection, according to Montreal Public Health.

The city’s health agency has published a list of locations and time periods where there was possible exposure to measles. It includes the arrivals area and baggage carousel at Trudeau airport in Dorval on Feb. 24.

WATCH | Rise in measles cases underscores importance of vaccination, doctor says: 

How to protect yourself against measles

The potential community spread of measles in several cities and an alarming rise in cases abroad has health officials warning Canadians to make sure their vaccinations are up to date. The National asks the experts to break down how we got here and what you can do to protect yourself from one of the world’s most contagious viruses.

Measles is highly contagious. The virus can remain active and contagious for up to two hours in a room even after an infected person has left, and it has a long incubation period — usually between 10 and 14 days. Its symptoms include fever, cough and a bumpy, red rash. 

Common complications are ear infections and diarrhea. In rare cases, measles can be fatal. Dangerous complications can occur in young infants as well as unvaccinated pregnant people and people with low immunity. 

The contagion window for measles occurs four days before a rash appears and four days afterward, Boileau said, noting it’s a significant amount of time for a virus to spread.

Anyone with serious symptoms should call Quebec’s 811 Info-Santé line or present themselves at a hospital or a clinic, wear a mask and warn staff as soon as they enter that they could be infected with measles, Drouin said. 

Vaccination appointments can be made online through Clic-Santé as well as by calling 1-877-644-4545, Boileau said.

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