Stopping measles requires effort at home and abroad: experts
Michael Shulman, CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Friday, February 20, 2015 10:00PM EST
Even though another case of measles popped up in Canada today -- bringing the total to 29 in 2015 -- experts say the battle to contain the disease goes beyond the country's borders.
So far, much of the spotlight has been placed on the Disneyland outbreak, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control says is responsible for all but seven of the 121 cases in the country. Cases in Quebec have also been traced back to the amusement park.
But on Monday, Toronto Public Health said that the confirmed cases in the city do not match.
Instead, the type found in Toronto has been linked to a number of different parts of the world.
Each year, there are an estimated 20 million cases globally. In 2013, the World Health Organization says measles caused 147,700 deaths. And experts say attempts to crack down on the disease cannot be limited to Canada.
"As long as measles is circulating in other parts of the world, we are at risk of having the problem in Canada," said Dr. Natasha Crowcroft, chief of infectious diseases at Public Health Ontario, told CTV News.
The last endemic case of measles in Canada -- classified as a chain of transmission that continues uninterrupted for a year -- was reported in 1997.
And Health Canada says that recent outbreaks have occurred because of "importation" from regions where the disease is widespread.
Decades ago, global health officials made eradication of measles and other childhood diseases a priority.
The vaccine was first introduced in the 1960s, and incidences of the highly contagious disease have fallen off in many developed countries.
It was theorized that a population could be protected through herd immunity -- vaccinating a significant portion of a population in order to protect individuals who had yet to develop resistance to the disease.
WHO estimates that between 2000 and 2013 the vaccine prevented an estimated 15.6 million deaths.
But programs in the developing world haven't kept up; many lack proper funding or delivery -- leading to outbreaks. WHO says that 95 per cent of deaths from measles occur in countries with low per-capita incomes and weak health infrastructure.
"We are taking notice of measles when we see it here, but there has been global problem we have been ignoring for years," said Dr. Neil Rau, an infectious disease specialist.
"(There) is a public health failure in those countries -- it's a lack of public health care, public health care systems … how do you get the vaccine to them," he added.
Rau admits that it is unlikely measles will be "eradicated overnight," and that it could take 10 years.
"There is no quick fix," he said.
"This is a global health priority the WHO has to deal with (and) we need more financial resources … to help developing countries."
But Dr. Natasha Crowcroft remains hopeful.
"If we can put a man on the moon, we can get rid of measles -- I am absolutely confident of that," she said.
With a report by CTV’s medical specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip