Minnesota health officials raise concerns over measles cases

Published 10:11 am Friday, September 30, 2022

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By Michelle Wiley, Minnesota Public Radio News

Another case of measles has been confirmed in Minnesota, bringing the total to 13 since June. All of the cases are among unvaccinated children, ranging in age from 2-years-old to kids in their early teens, state health officials said in a press release.

Measles is a very contagious respiratory virus that typically starts with a high fever, cough, runny nose and red, watery eyes and later causes a rash, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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While almost all the cases are  among kids who had a history of recent travel to a country “where measles is common and circulating,” the release said, the latest case is less clear. Officials have not yet confirmed a travel history, nor how the virus was transmitted. The instance raises concern that it could potentially be a case of community spread.

“The measles virus is highly contagious and very successful at finding people who are unvaccinated, even within groups of people who may be vaccinated,” said state epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield in the release. “Measles can be a very serious disease, causing hospitalizations and sometimes death. That’s why it’s so important to maintain high vaccination rates for measles.”

Seven children with confirmed measles cases were hospitalized for treatment.

The state has seen a slight downtick in vaccinations overall during the pandemic. The Minnesota Department of Health said in the release that there was a three percent drop in school-aged immunizations, due in large part to “people not getting in for routine well-child-care visits,” the release said.

MDH officials are urging unvaccinated people to get vaccinated for the virus. However, they say the overall risk to the general public is low due to the high overall rate of vaccinations.

“We need to maintain our high vaccination rates to make sure measles does not make a comeback in Minnesota,” said Margaret Roddy, section manager for vaccine preventable disease at MDH, in the release.

“As long as there is measles somewhere in the world and people travel, the risk to Minnesota remains. The measles vaccine is safe and effective. Without it, the risk of disease is real.”