An elementary school student in Edmonton has been diagnosed with diphtheria, a serious and contagious illness that is rarely found in Canada.

Several people who came into contact with the student at Evansdale School and at the child’s home have been told to stay away from the public and are being monitored for possible signs of infection.

Dr. Chris Sikora, the medical officer of health for Alberta Health Services, said that health officials have taken “all precautions” to treat the student and those who came into contact with the child.

“There is no risk to the general public,” he told reporters.

Dr. Sikora said the last known case of diphtheria in the Edmonton area was “well over 10 years ago.”

Thanks in part to immunization programs, only one or two cases of diphtheria are diagnosed across Canada every year, he added.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, diphtheria is caused by bacteria and anyone who has not been vaccinated can contract the illness.

Diphtheria can be very serious and was once one of the most common causes of death in Canadian children under the age of five.

Symptoms can include a sore throat, fever and chills, as well as difficulty breathing. The illness can progress quickly and cause swelling in the neck that blocks the patient’s airway.

Diphtheria can also cause skin infections that result in rashes or ulcers.  But respiratory diphtheria is more contagious, Dr. Sikora said.

He said the Edmonton case “highlights the need to have immunization first and foremost in the minds of all parents.”