TORONTO -- Measles could be stamped out in Canada if every province passed legislation making immunization compulsory for children entering kindergarten, the Canadian Pediatric Society said Thursday.
'Measles could be eliminated from Canada if immunization were compulsory,' said society spokesman Dr. Ronald Gold.
Gold, chief of infectious diseases at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, said the incidence of measles in Canada was 10 times higher last year than in the United States, where vaccinations were required before children were admitted to school.
Canada reported 58 cases of the disease for every 100,000 residents in 1980, while the U.S. reported only six cases for every 100,000.
Gold said part of the problem is that few measles cases are reported to provincial health authorities.
'Figures are hard to come by,' said Gold. 'We generally know only about the cases that end up in hospital.'
He said doctors in Canada are not penalized for not reporting cases, although they are required to do so.
'The American regulations are enforced so strictly that recently several school principals in New York City were fired for allowing non-immunized children to attend classes,' Gold said.
Measles, a highly contagious disease, is caused by a virus, most prevalent in children three toeight-years-old.
Gold said parents have become too complacent about measles because epidemics on the scale of pre-vaccine days no longer occurred.
He said the number of reported cases in Canada was down this year, but added that was probably because the disease runs in three-year cycles.
A recent survey revealed that 80 percent of children entering school in Ontario, and 90 percent in Alberta, had not been vaccinated against the disease.
The disease claims one life in every 10,000 cases and one in 10,000 contracts encephalitis, a brain disease that causes mental retardation.