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Health officials investigate three more measles cases in Hennepin County

Thu, Mar 17th, 2011
Posted in State of Minnesota

Three more measles cases have been confirmed by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) since state health officials announced a case of measles in an infant on March 4.

MDH is working closely with Hennepin County Public Health staff in investigating all four cases. The three new cases were reported in children between 23 months and 4 years of age, living in Minneapolis who likely acquired their infections in Minneapolis.

The children became ill between March 1 and March 9. Two of the three new cases were hospitalized, and all are recovering.

Hennepin County Public Health staff and health care providers have been notifying people who may have been exposed to the children in specific settings such as a hospital or a place of residence.

Two of the new cases were unvaccinated and the other child's vaccination history is not known. The first case, an infant, was too young to be vaccinated.

"Measles can be a severe infection and is very contagious if a person without immunity is exposed to an infected person," said Dr. Ruth Lynfield, state epidemiologist with MDH. "We strongly urge parents and health care providers to ensure that children have received appropriate vaccinations."

Health officials are concerned because not all children in Minnesota have received measles vaccine. There may be a variety of reasons, including poor access to health care, lack of understanding about vaccine preventable diseases, misconceptions about vaccinations, or religious or philosophical objections.

Two of the four children are Somali. They had not been vaccinated because of parental concerns about the standard vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR). In recent years, MMR vaccination has dropped in the Somali community because of concerns about safety.

"Contrary to misinformation that may still be circulating, the measles vaccine is safe and effective. Without it, the risk of disease is real. Children can die from measles," said Dr. Edward Ehlinger, Minnesota Commissioner of Health.

"It is every parent's responsibility to vaccinate their children for measles, mumps and rubella to protect them against these deadly diseases," said Dr. Abdirahman D. Mohamed, Chief of Staff of Axis Medical Center, Minneapolis. Dr. Mohamed said he knows of four unvaccinated Somali children (two in the U.S. and two in other countries) who have died from measles. He stressed the importance of reaching the community with the message that vaccination is important.

Those thoughts were shared by Dr. Ahmed Roble Mohamed, family physician with People's Center Health Services in Minneapolis. "Vaccinations are important to protect against infections, especially childhood infections such as measles, which can have a devastating effect on the community," he said.

Hennepin County will hold an MMR vaccine clinic on Monday, March 21, 3-6 p.m. at the county Public Health Clinic, 525 Portland Ave. South. Children's Hospitals and Clinics will hold an MMR clinic on Sunday, March 27, 1-4 p.m., at its Minneapolis Specialty Center, 2530 Chicago Ave. South.

The Hennepin County clinic will be for children only. The Children's Hospital clinic will be open to anyone, including adults who wish to be vaccinated. More details will be posted on the MDH website atwww.health.state.mn.us/immunize.

MDH has alerted health care providers in the state, particularly in the metro area, to be alert for patients with signs or symptoms of measles. Anyone who has concerns about their health should contact their health care provider. If additional cases occur in people who had contact with the four cases identified so far, they would likely occur between March 1 and April 7, health officials said.

Symptoms of measles include fever, runny nose, cough, loss of appetite, watery eyes and a rash. The rash usually lasts five to six days and begins at the hairline, moving to the face and upper neck, and proceeding down the body.

It generally takes eight to 12 days from exposure to the disease to appearance of the first symptom, which is usually fever. The measles rash usually appears two to three days after the fever begins.

Measles is spread through the air by infectious droplets and is highly contagious. It can be transmitted from four days before the rash becomes visible to four days after the rash appears.

There is no specific treatment for measles. People with measles need bed rest, fluids and control of fever. Patients may need specific treatment specific for any complications.

Disease complications can occur in about a third of those infected. They are more frequent in children under 5 years and in adults, and can include diarrhea, pneumonia, ear infections and, rarely, encephalitis. Pregnant women may experience complications such as premature labor and stillbirth. Measles can be especially severe in people with weakened immune systems.

Children should receive two doses of the MMR vaccine: The first at 12 to 15 months of age, and the second at four to six years of age. However, the second dose may be given earlier than four years of age.

More information on measles can be found on the MDH website at:www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/diseases/measles/basics.html.

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