Health officials are concerned about the increase in measles cases in the state, the potential for an outbreak

News release
September 29, 2022

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Parents are urged to make sure children are up to date on immunizations

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is working with local public health agencies and health care providers in the Twin Cities area to investigate 13 cases of measles that occurred from June through September among several different families with unvaccinated children. Most of these children had a history of travel to a country where measles is common and circulating. The latest case had no reported travel history, but investigators are still working to determine how the transmission may have occurred.

All cases are in the Twin Cities area. The children ranged in age from two years old to children in their early teens, and just over a third were pre-teens. Seven children were hospitalized for measles treatment.

Minnesota’s 13 cases are several times the number of cases seen in the state in a typical year. The higher number of cases has prompted health officials to warn health care providers to watch for signs of measles in their patients, especially those who have recently traveled to areas where the virus is circulating.

The possibility that the latest case may indicate measles is spreading in the community prompted health officials today to urge parents to make sure their children are up to date on their childhood immunizations, which include the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine.

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

The MMR vaccine is safe and highly effective against measles, according to Jennifer Heath, immunization program coordinator for MDH. Because the virus itself is so contagious, Heath said, an overall vaccination rate of at least 90 percent is needed in our communities to prevent the virus from causing large outbreaks. Minnesota saw a 3 percent drop in school-age immunizations during the pandemic, largely due to people not attending routine childcare.

“Even a small drop in immunization coverage rates means there are thousands more children who could be vulnerable to disease because they are not vaccinated,” Heath said. “If the coverage level in a setting like a daycare or school is significantly less than 85 or 90 percent, that’s an outbreak waiting to happen,” she added.

In general, the risk to the general public from these cases is low because most Minnesotans are vaccinated against measles through routine immunizations required for school attendance. Most of the children involved were isolated when symptoms began, so exposures were limited to health care and family settings. However, it only takes one case of travel-associated measles transmitted to someone else in the community who isn’t vaccinated to start an outbreak in a community with lower vaccination rates, Linfield said.

Any case of measles causes concern for health officials. Measles is easily spread by coughing, talking, or being in the same room as someone who has measles. The initial symptoms of measles include a high fever, cough, runny nose and watery eyes, followed by a rash that usually spreads from the head to the rest of the body. It usually takes 8 to 12 days from exposure to a person with measles until the first symptom, which is usually a fever. The measles rash usually appears two to three days after the fever starts. If you have symptoms of measles, call your doctor or clinic and they will let you know if you need to come in for a visit.

Measles was declared eliminated in the US in 2000, but is still common in other parts of the world. In a typical year, Minnesota sees one to four cases of measles, usually in people who have traveled to countries where measles is more common.

There are outbreaks of measles in many countries around the world, and measles is common in other countries, so it is important that anyone from the U.S. traveling abroad be vaccinated or immunized against measles. in 2018, there were more than 140,000 measles deaths worldwide, mostly among children under the age of five.

“We need to maintain our high vaccination rates to ensure that measles does not return to Minnesota,” said Margaret Roddy, Section Manager for Vaccine Preventable Diseases at MDH. “As long as there is measles somewhere in the world and people are traveling, the risk to Minnesota remains. The measles vaccine is safe and effective. Without it, the risk of disease is real.”

The best way to prevent measles is through vaccination. Children should receive two doses of the MMR vaccine: the first at 12 to 15 months of age and the second at 4 to 6 years of age. Children 6 to 12 months of age should receive an early dose of MMR vaccine if they are traveling to a country where measles is common. For all ages, it’s important to talk to your doctor if you’re going to travel to another country. Your doctor can check that you and your family are up to date on your immunizations and make sure you don’t need any other immunizations.

MDH encourages people to check their records to confirm that they and their children have received the MMR vaccine. Minnesota residents can request their immunization records by visiting Find My Immunization Record.

For more information, visit the MDH measles website.


Media Inquiries:

Doug Schultz
MDH Communications
[email protected]

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