Employee & Community Health

Measles found in Minnesota

4/20/2017 by Dr. Robert Jacobson

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The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is seeking the source of measles in nine people. All nine are Hennepin County residents and have been confirmed with the virus. The MDH also is monitoring anyone who came in contact with these children for measles infection. 

Measles begins with the sudden start of a fever, cough, pink eye and runny nose. This is followed by a red, spotty rash. The rash spreads from the face to the body to the arms and legs. Measles leaves people feeling achy and tired. 

Measles is perhaps the most contagious disease known. The virus is spread by droplets from the mouth when coughing or breathing. The air in the room where a person who has the measles infection has been can remain risky for others for another hour after the infected person leaves. They can spread the disease even before they have the rash and can remain contagious for another four days. The virus does not lie dormant in the air or on surfaces after more than a few hours. Animals do not get infected with measles and do not carry it. 

It is not known where the nine children in Minnesota got measles. They had not traveled recently. All are ages one to four, and none were vaccinated. Eight of the nine in this outbreak are Somali Minnesotans. 

All children should get their first measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine at 12 months. Their mother's immunity protects them until then; however, it also blocks earlier doses of MMR vaccine from working. Everyone should get a second dose at age four to six years of age. Dozens of studies, including research done at Mayo Clinic, show there is absolutely no association between measles-containing vaccines and autism. 

Persons can consider themselves immune to measles if they have one of the following: 

  • Documentation of age-appropriate vaccination
  • Lab evidence of immunity
  • Lab confirmation of a previous bout of measles
  • A birthday before 1957

Six of the nine children have been hospitalized. Complications from measles include ear, lung and brain inflammation. Measles infection also causes a dulling of the immune system that can last for months. 

To protect yourself and your loved ones, make sure all recommended vaccines are up to date. These should include the MMR vaccine. 

Dr. Robert M. Jacobson is a primary care pediatrician in Employee and Community Health's (ECH) Division of Community Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine and is the medical director of the ECH and Southeast Minnesota Region Immunization Programs.