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Child Under Five Dies of Measles in Ontario, First Such Death in Over a Decade

According to the report, there have been no measles-related deaths in Ontario from January 1, 2013, until now.

A 5-year-old child has tragically succumbed to measles in Ontario, marking the first such fatality in over a decade, as reported by the province’s public health agency.

Public Health Ontario’s Thursday report confirmed that the child had not received the measles vaccine, a highly contagious respiratory virus. Details about the child’s exact age, date, and location of death were not disclosed.

According to the report, there have been no measles-related deaths in Ontario from January 1, 2013, until now.

The incidence of measles is rising both in Ontario and globally, especially in Europe, which reported tens of thousands of cases last year.

Public Health Ontario has recorded 22 measles cases so far this year, equaling the recent peak seen in 2014 when the same number of cases occurred over the entire year.

All the current year’s cases were in individuals born post-1970, including 13 children. Twelve of these children were unvaccinated, while the vaccination status of one was unknown.

The report highlighted that five unvaccinated children under five years old required hospitalization due to measles.

In a statement via email, a spokesperson for Ontario’s Ministry of Health expressed condolences to the affected family. “Our heart goes out to the family that has tragically lost their child. Our thoughts are with them as they navigate this challenging time,” the spokesperson said. “We remind all Ontarians to stay up to date with their vaccinations to ensure themselves and their loved ones are protected against infectious diseases.”

Public Health Ontario noted that 15 of the 22 measles cases this year were travel-related.

“In Ontario, measles has been rare, owing to the successful elimination of measles in Canada and high immunization coverage. As a result, measles cases are predominantly associated with travel,” the report states. “Due to an increase in measles activity globally, Ontario has begun to see more cases of measles.”

Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases expert at Toronto General Hospital, emphasized the importance of vaccination for travelers in light of the global increase in measles cases. “The vaccine is extremely effective. It’s safe, it’s widely available, and it’s free. Is it perfect? Of course not. Nothing’s perfect, but it’s really, really, really good,” he shared with CBC Radio’s Metro Morning on Friday.

Bogoch pointed out that disruptions to regular childhood vaccination schedules during the COVID-19 pandemic might have led to some children missing their doses.

For Canadian children, the current vaccination schedule includes two doses of the combined measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. The first dose is administered at 12 to 15 months, and the second at 18 months or later, but before school entry, as outlined by the Canadian immunization guide.

For infants traveling internationally to regions with high measles rates, the first dose can be given as early as six months, Dr. Bogoch advised.