With 41 confirmed cases of measles in Hennepin, Ramsey and Crow Wing counties, and more cases likely in the current outbreak, state health officials today expanded their recommendations for stepped-up vaccination in an effort to curb the spread of the disease.
Measles is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and even death. It spreads very easily among unvaccinated people. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has made the following recommendations to protect children and adults during outbreaks:
For children who have had one dose of the MMR vaccine:
Parents should contact their child’s health care provider and specifically tell them the child needs the MMR vaccine. This may help avoid a longer wait associated with scheduling a routine appointment.
The MMR vaccine is given to children in two doses, typically at 12 months and between 4-6 years. The first dose offers good protection, and the second dose provides extra security. The accelerated vaccine schedule recommended is commonly used during outbreaks.
Babies younger than 12 months may have some protection from their mothers if their mothers have been vaccinated or have had measles. The current outbreak has caused illness almost exclusively in children older than 12 months.
Minnesotans who have received the MMR vaccine are considered protected. Contact your health care provider to confirm that you and your children have received the MMR vaccine. You can also request immunization records by calling 651-201-3980 or visiting MIIC Immunization Records Requests.
For parents concerned about the cost of immunizations, the Minnesota Vaccines for Children Program provides free or low-cost vaccines for eligible children through age 18. More information is available at Can My Child Get Free or Low Cost Shots?
Measles symptoms include a high fever, cough, runny nose and watery eyes followed by a rash that typically spreads from head to the rest of the body. Measles spreads through the air by coughing or sneezing. You can get measles by just being in the same room as someone who has measles. It is important for people who think they or their child may have measles to call their health care facility before going in so they can take measures to protect other people. Most people in Minnesota are immune to measles either from having been vaccinated or from having had the disease. However, in recent years vaccine rates have declined in some communities and groups – often due to fears related to misinformation about vaccine risks.
The health department reported Thursday a total of 41 confirmed cases since April 11, 2017. The majority of cases are in Hennepin County, and almost all are unvaccinated. Most of the exposures have occurred in either child care, health care or household settings. To date, more than 2,500 people have been exposed.
Health officials said the Crow Wing county child may have been exposed in multiple locations in Hennepin County.
Disease investigators follow up with each confirmed case to determine how the person became infected and who was exposed to the case while they were infectious. Those exposed people who are determined not to be immune to measles – because they have been vaccinated or have had the disease – are asked to exclude themselves from school, work or child care for 21 days.
“Once measles begins to spread in unvaccinated populations, it can be very difficult to stop,” said Kris Ehresmann, director of infectious disease control for MDH. “We would not be surprised if we saw additional cases in other parts of the state where there are clusters of unvaccinated people before this is over.”
In addition to case identification, investigation and follow-up, state and local health officials have been working with local public health staff and leaders in the Somali community to address concerns about autism and encourage MMR vaccination.
In the three weeks since the outbreak began, outbreak response efforts have involved more than 70 staff at the state level, working full or part time, at a cost of $207,000. In addition, county public health staff and health care providers and facilities involved in the outbreak have accrued significant labor and related costs.
For more information on measles and for updates as the investigation continues, please visit Measles.