Toronto measles: 248 staff suspended without pay

Image copyright Amber McPherson Image caption They were working in operations support

Toronto Mayor John Tory has confirmed that 248 city of Toronto employees have been suspended without pay for not having proof of a measles vaccination.

The employees were affected at operations support, health and human services, public works and general government departments.

None had reported contact with someone who contracted measles.

Toronto is on the first phase of a public health alert over suspected measles cases.

On Thursday, Health Canada told Canadians not to ignore a measles vaccination warning.

It said it had confirmed three cases of measles in Toronto over the past two weeks, and that 67 Toronto patients were in the UK in 2015, but it would not say if there were still any unvaccinated Canadians in Toronto or being monitored by health authorities there.

People who contracted measles in the UK in 2015 and who now live in Canada are being urged to get vaccinated.

Possible link

Toronto Public Health said in a statement that the cases in Canada were “alleged contacts of Canadian and US individuals who may have contracted measles in early 2015”.

The agency said patients who contracted measles in 2015 in the UK and Canada had similar symptoms – including fever, cough, red, watery eyes and a runny nose – and were likely to have contracted the disease in the same circumstances.

Some of the residents of Toronto, Canada’s largest city, reported similar symptoms to the people in the UK who contracted measles.

But officials said there was no “direct or indirect” link between the cases.

Doctors are urging those with measles symptoms to follow the advice of their doctors, and not to wait for symptoms to develop before seeing a doctor.

“Those with measles have a very high risk of disease complications, including pneumonia, ear infections, and encephalitis, which is basically brain inflammation,” said Dr Lisa Pearson, a Toronto Public Health medical officer.

“In 2016, measles was the most common cause of death from non-epidemic viral illnesses and there have been many documented cases of brain damage associated with it in children.”

Toronto Public Health said anyone who might have visited parks or a shopping centre in the area on the dates in question between 1 August and 15 August, but felt unwell, should contact their doctor.

Toronto Public Health said those affected have been offered vaccinations to protect them against measles.

What is the measles?

Image copyright Alamy Image caption Measles is a highly contagious disease, can be fatal and is not easily prevented

Measles is a highly contagious disease, can be fatal and is not easily prevented. The virus enters the body through the air and infects the nose and throat.

A rash which starts with a reddish-brown spot at the site of the infection will eventually spread out to the rest of the body.

Symptoms develop three to four days after exposure to measles. The virus can live on your clothes, in surfaces and in your intestines for up to two hours.

People who contract measles may have mild symptoms or a mild fever, but can also have a rash and be dehydrated.

As with some other types of cancer, measles can often be prevented through vaccination. However, in the US and Canada, the vaccine is not mandatory for anyone born between two and 18 months of age, or older than 50.

Anti-vaccination activists – like the anti-vaccination movement in the US – argue that vaccines can cause side effects, and could in fact cause autism. The evidence against that is strong.

This is particularly the case in parts of the world where people lack access to healthcare or to modern treatment and which still experience poor sanitation.

Last week, the World Health Organization said the measles is on the cusp of a comeback in regions where immunity is low.

The virus is having a resurgence in parts of Europe, Asia and Africa, mostly because people have delayed having their children vaccinated.

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