Toronto blames state rules for not checking employee for measles

Written by By Ashwini Sharma, CNN

After the measles outbreak in Toronto, officials are apologizing for a “regrettable lapse” of state health regulations after one of its public pools closed over fears one of its staff members may have been exposed to the highly contagious virus.

Health officials closed the pool at the Toronto International Film Festival grounds on Sunday over concerns the employee, who was not vaccinated, might have been infected by two unvaccinated teenagers, according to a statement from Toronto Public Health.

One of the teenagers, 15, has since tested negative for measles, Toronto Public Health said. But an investigation is still ongoing.

Toronto’s mayor has apologized for the mistake.

“There are people in the city of Toronto who do not get immunized, and we apologize for that,” Tory said at a Monday press conference.

“Public health is cooperating with several organizations as well as health authorities at all levels — including from across the border — in an attempt to find out where the people who were affected went and how they were affected.”

Measles is one of the most serious childhood diseases. The virus is spread through contact with saliva and mucus, making it a disease to be avoided if possible. Symptoms usually appear 7-12 days after exposure.

As of July 21, the latest date for which data is available, approximately 5,500 people in Toronto had been infected in a second measles outbreak in the city, according to Toronto Public Health. It’s the second measles outbreak in Toronto in less than a year.

The outbreak has spread to other Canadian provinces, Ontario and British Columbia, where 21 people have been infected, according to the province’s Health Ministry.

The outbreak in Toronto has now sickened patients ranging in age from 3 to 101, according to Health Canada.

The swimming pool closed Sunday at Toronto International Film Festival grounds, which is the heart of Toronto’s film festival and the city’s busiest festival venue. At least one guest at the Toronto Convention Centre, where the festival is held, was also found to have measles, public health officials said.

The screening dates for this year’s film festival are July 25-31. The pool has been reopened, but Toronto Public Health says there is “no definitive information that confirms that the two individuals with measles were present at the screenings during the years when everyone was eligible to receive a free measles vaccination.”

According to the Ontario public health, there has been a fall in the number of people who are vaccinated.

“In 2014, a report showed that only one in three kindergarteners in the city of Toronto were fully vaccinated. This year, one in four Toronto parents reported that they refused to vaccinate their children, with one in four parents not vaccinating their children because of parental belief systems,” said the Health Canada report

Toronto Public Health has started working with businesses and organizations that engage their communities to encourage vaccinations. It is working with civic groups and the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law to further develop the city’s immunization advisory.

CNN has reached out to both the Toronto International Film Festival and the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law for comment.

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