The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is working closely with Hennepin County Public Health and health care providers to investigate two confirmed cases of measles in children who are siblings and live in Hennepin County.
The two children developed symptoms shortly after returning from a visit to a country where measles is common. Both have tested positive for measles. The preschool-aged children were not vaccinated and one was hospitalized due to measles complications. MDH, Hennepin County Public Health staff, hospital and clinic staff are working to notify people who may have been exposed. The risk to the general public from these cases is low. The children were isolated when symptoms started, so exposures were limited to health care and family settings.
MDH has notified health care providers in the state to be alert for patients with signs or symptoms of measles. If additional measles cases develop as a result of these cases, they will likely occur between now and July 1, health officials said.
Initial symptoms of measles include a high fever, cough, runny nose, and watery eyes followed by a rash that typically spreads from the head to the rest of the body. It generally takes eight to 12 days from exposure to someone with measles to develop the first symptom, which is usually fever. The measles rash usually appears two to three days after the fever begins. Measles can be a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and even death. 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.
Any case of measles causes concern for health officials. Measles spreads easily by coughing, talking, or being in the same room with someone who has measles. Yet some communities in Minnesota continue to have low vaccination rates for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR). In addition, vaccination rates for MMR, along with other childhood diseases, declined during the pandemic. Health officials worry that some children may be more vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases than they were two years ago, especially since many people are beginning to travel again.
According to recent data, the percentage of 2-year-olds who had received at least one dose of MMR vaccine by 24 months declined from 81.4% in 2019 to 79.3% in 2021.
“This case emphasizes the importance of getting vaccinated for diseases, such as measles, which can be prevented with vaccines,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield said. “Vaccines are extremely effective for preventing measles. It’s important that we work on getting our immunization rates back up where they need to be so that all children in Minnesota are protected.”
Minnesota has had four cases of measles since a major outbreak in 2017. Measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, but it is still common in other parts of the world. In a typical year, Minnesota sees one to four cases of measles, generally in people who traveled to countries where measles is more common.
“We need to maintain our high vaccination rates in the United States to make sure measles does not make a comeback in Minnesota,” said Margaret Roddy, section manager for vaccine preventable disease at MDH. “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.”
The best way to prevent measles is through vaccination. Children should receive two doses of 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 should get an early dose of MMR vaccine if they are traveling to a country where measles is common.
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