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Health Canada issues measles notice for attendees of U.S. religious gathering

Canadians who attended a large religious gathering at a university in the U.S. state of Kentucky last month may have been exposed to measles, Health Canada has warned.

In a series of tweets Saturday, the national health agency said people who attended the gathering at Asbury University between Feb. 17-18 and were not updated with their measles vaccination should isolate themselves.

“If you attended and are not up to date with your measles vaccinations, you should quarantine at home and contact your local public health department to seek additional advice,” Health Canada said.

(1/4) Canadians who attended a large gathering at Asbury University in #Kentucky on Feb. 17 or 18 may have been exposed to #measles. — Health Canada and PHAC (@GovCanHealth) March 4, 2023

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On Friday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a health alert advisory to notify clinics and public health officials to be watchful after a case of measles was confirmed at the Kentucky gathering, dubbed the Asbury revival, where an estimated 20,000 people were present from other states and countries.

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On Feb. 24, the Kentucky Department for Public Health identified a confirmed case of measles in an unvaccinated individual with a history of recent international travel, the CDC said.

“While infectious, the individual attended a large religious gathering on February 17–18, 2023, at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky,” the U.S. national agency added.

Measles is one of the most contagious human viruses and is almost entirely preventable through vaccination.

However, it requires 95 per cent vaccine coverage to prevent outbreaks among populations.

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Symptoms can appear one to three weeks after exposure and initial signs include fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes, Health Canada says on its website.

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These are followed by a red rash that begins three to seven days after the symptoms onset.

“If you develop symptoms, isolate at home and call your health care provider,” Health Canada said on Twitter. “Do not go to a health care facility or office without calling ahead so that measles is not spread to others.”

Measles can result in serious illness and in some cases, death. Very young children, pregnant people and immunocompromised individuals are particularly vulnerable to serious illness.

In November, the CDC and the World Health Organization said that there is now an imminent threat of measles spreading in various regions globally, as COVID-19 led to a steady decline in vaccination coverage and weakened surveillance of the disease.

— With files from Reuters

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