The measles has made its way into Canada already this year, with seven cases currently active including one in Saskatchewan. 

While concern isn't very high at the moment due to strong vaccination rates against the virus nationwide, it is extremely contagious; more than 90 per cent of people who aren't immune to measles and who come into contact with the virus will be infected.

Medical health officer for the southwest corner of the province Dr. David Torr said cases and outbreaks occur in Canada when travellers who aren't vaccinated or immune bring it into the country with them.

"The concern that has come up most recently with the World Health Organization is that there's been a real surge in measles cases across the world in many other countries," he said. "In the U.S., they're dealing with quite a number of outbreaks, both in schools and in various communities because of low immunization or incomplete immunization rates. We are alerting physicians and communities as well to be on the alert for that, especially when they are travelling or if they are in touch with folks who have traveled and maybe carrying the virus and they don't have up-to-date immunization for themselves or for their children."

The vaccine MMR, which covers mumps, measles and rubella, is available for individuals as young as 12-months-old and is considered one of the most effective vaccines there is.

Adults born before 1970 are presumed to have immunity as it's likely they came into contact with the measles virus when they were younger -- however, it's now recommended that those individuals still receive a dose of the MRR vaccine if they are a healthcare worker or planning to travel outside of Canada. 

"It is so easy to get measles," said Dr. Torr. "A person walking into a room with COVID for example will likely infect two or three people on average. A person who walks into a room [with measles] can infect 20 people within a very short period of time. It is very, very contagious, spreads very, very quickly and can be quite a severe disease."

Complications from the virus, while rare, include respiratory failure, inflammation and swelling of the brain, and death. Other complications could be ear infections, pneumonia and diarrhea. 

Symptoms can appear seven to 21 days after being infected, and initially look like fever, cough, runny nose and red, watery eyes. Small, white spots also may appear inside the mouth and throat.

About three to seven days after those symptoms begin, a rash that looks like small red spots will develop on the face and spread down the body, arms and legs.

"The case in Saskatchewan, we did not get any secondary cases because the people around this person were all vaccinated, which shows how efficient and good the vaccine is," Dr. Torr added. 

There is currently no specific antiviral medication for a measles infection. Treatment is supportive to help relieve symptoms and recover from home, and in some cases can prevent severe complications. 

"We don't have a specific magic bullet to treat measles, but we do have a magic bullet to prevent measles," he said. "And that's why we emphasize the vaccination. It lasts literally for a lifetime."