April 24, 2017
With 20 cases of measles now confirmed among Somali Minnesotan children in Hennepin County, health officials are asking parents and health care providers to watch for potential cases and help make sure as many Minnesota children as possible are protected through vaccination.
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) stresses the importance of its vaccine recommendations, which protect children and adults during outbreaks:
MDH also recommends that all Somali Minnesotan children statewide who have already received their first dose of MMR vaccine get their second dose now. This special vaccine schedule is commonly recommended during outbreaks instead of waiting until 4 to 6 years old for the second dose. Parents of Somali Minnesotan children 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.
MMR vaccine is given to children in two doses. The first dose offers good protection, and the second dose provides extra security. Providers seeing children in Hennepin County may suggest an early second dose of the MMR vaccine during routine appointments.
MDH recommends children get their first MMR vaccine at 12 months. Babies younger than 12 months may have some protection from their mothers if their mothers have been vaccinated or have had measles.
Vaccine recommendations may expand if the measles outbreak spreads to more communities. MDH and Hennepin County are working to identify all places where people could have been exposed to measles. They are contacting parents of children who were exposed and are at risk of getting measles to provide them with instructions.
Minnesotans who have received the MMR vaccine are considered protected. MDH encourages people to check their records to confirm that they and their children have received the MMR vaccine. Many Minnesotans can request their vaccination records by visiting 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?
“This is about unvaccinated children, not specific communities,” Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger said. “There are people of all backgrounds around the state who have chosen not to protect themselves or their children. Often that decision is based on good intentions and inaccurate information. It’s the responsibility of all of us who care about the health of Minnesota children to make sure people have accurate information and take action to protect their families and their communities.”
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. It spreads easily by coughing, sneezing or even being in the same room with someone who has measles. Most people in Minnesota are immune 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.
For more information on measles and for updates as the investigation continues, please visit Measles.