Employee & Community Health

Measles reported in Minnesota

9/20/2016 by Dr. Robert Jacobson

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The Minnesota Department of Health has reported a case of measles in Minnesota. The infected patient was visiting the Twin Cities metro area on business in early September. With this first case, it's time to review the status of your - and your family's - measles vaccinations with your Care Team. 

What is measles?

Measles is a highly contagious infection caused by a virus. Once quite common, measles can almost always be prevented with a vaccine. Signs and symptoms of measles include cough, runny nose, inflamed eyes, sore throat, fever, a red, blotchy skin rash and swollen glands. Measles is transmitted when an infected person breathes, coughs or sneezes around others. The virus can linger in the air for hours. 

Also called rubeola, measles can be serious and even fatal for small children. Complications include a suppressed immune system lasting up to three years, diarrhea, pneumonia, liver inflammation, mouth sores and brain inflammation. While death rates have been falling worldwide as more children receive the measles vaccine, the disease still kills more than 100,000 people a year, most under the age of five. 

As a result of high vaccination rates, measles has not been widespread in the U.S. for more than a decade. Today, we average about 60 cases of measles a year, and most of them originate outside the country. The recent visitor infected with measles earlier had traveled to India, where he more than likely was exposed to the virus. 

What vaccinations are needed to prevent measles? 

We currently vaccinate against measles with a combination vaccine, called the MMR, that we give all infants at 12 months of age. It protects against measles, mumps and rubella. At four to six years of age, children receive a second dose of a measles-containing vaccine called MMRV. It protects against measles, mumps, rubella and varicella. We use the combination vaccine with children through age 12. Adolescents and adults who need measles protection should get the MMR vaccine. 

Everyone should make sure they are immune against measles. If you were born between 1957 and 1978, and you do not have documentation of immunity or a measles vaccine, you should receive the vaccination now. 

If you want to be sure your vaccinations are up to date, contact your Care Team. 

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