There was Dr. Noni MacDonald on the ground in Tajikistan in 2010, in the middle of something that shouldn’t exist in modern times: A polio outbreak.

Hundreds of sick children, many paralyzed, some dead.

These children hadn’t been vaccinated.

MacDonald is dean of medicine at Dalhousie University and a pediatric infectious disease expert active with the World Health Organization.

Tajikistan is a neighbour of Pakistan and Afghanistan, one of only two regions in the world where polio remains endemic (the other is Nigeria). These places sound far off, but as MacDonald says, they’re all only a plane ride from Ottawa.

Skip forward to this month, with the United States facing the biggest series of measles outbreaks since the 1990s.

Lucky it’s just measles, right? Some itching and it’s all over? Hardly.