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Measles Surveillance -- Canada

A provisional total of 915 measles cases was reported in Canada for 1983. This appears to be the lowest incidence reported since national reporting of measles began in 1924. However, complete data are available only through 1982.

In 1982, 1,064 cases of measles were reported in Canada, a rate of 4.3 cases per 100,000 population. Compared with 1981 and 1980, this reflects a 55% and a 92% reduction, respectively, and a 99% reduction compared with the 10-year prevaccine period 1949-1958 (Figure 1).

All provinces except Prince Edward Island reported measles cases in 1982. Although Ontario accounted for the largest proportion of cases (48%), it reported a 41% reduction in incidence rate compared with 1981.

The age distribution of measles patients in 1982 was available for all provinces except Ontario, for which data were available from January to June 1982. Children under 1 year of age accounted for 19% of cases; under 5 years, 27%; and under 10 years, 75%. The highest rate (43 cases per 100,000 persons) occurred among infants, followed by preschoolers (1-4 years), with a rate of 15.1 per 100,000 persons. In Ontario, 21% of children were less than 5 years old; school-aged children (5-19 years) accounted for 73% of 224 cases.

All provinces are attempting to eliminate measles either by compulsory vaccination at school entry or by voluntary approaches, and some have reported that up to 95% of children are now immunized by the time they reach school age. New Brunswick and Ontario (representing 39% of Canada's population) introduced legislation in 1981 and 1982, respectively, making immunization against measles and five other diseases (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, and rubella) compulsory for school attendance. Reported by Health and Welfare, Canada; Weekly Epidemiological Record 1983;58:331-2, World Health Organization; Div of Immunization, Center for Prevention Svcs, CDC.

Editorial Note

Editorial Note: This report suggests that improved immunization coverage may be one reason for the low level of measles activity recorded from 1981 to 1983. Use of a more stringent case definition and a growing tendency to report only laboratory-confirmed cases also may have reduced the number of reported cases. Moreover, measles has been characterized by 2- to 3-year epidemic cycles, and 1981-1983 could be a low period.

Nevertheless, these data show remarkable progress in controlling measles in Canada. Like the United States, Canada has achieved a record low measles incidence rate because of a national commitment to achieve and maintain high immunization levels against the vaccine-preventable diseases of childhood. Continued efforts in both countries are expected to eliminate indigenous measles in both populations.

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