Ask the Pharmacist

Q) I have been hearing a lot about the measles outbreaks. What can you tell me about all of this?

A) Measles is a highly infectious virus associated with a characteristic skin rash most often seen in children. It was not so long ago that virtually every child born in Canada contracted this illness leaving a small but not insignificant number left with life-long complications and some families mourning the loss of a loved one.

However, two changes occurred to reverse these numbers. The first was just better overall healthcare that greatly decreased the mortality rates in the multitude of kids who became infected. Secondly, starting in the 1970’s, was the use of the measles vaccine which almost eliminated the local spread of the disease due to both its effectiveness and its widespread use.

Without the measles vaccine, experts estimate Canada would see about 350,000 cases a year rather than the few dozen we expect to see. It’s hard to say where our death rates would be without the vaccine given the massive improvements in our overall health care but historically measles claimed 892 lives in 1926 in Canada and the total number of deaths attributed to it between 1969 & 1979 was 129.