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Measles outbreak prompts vaccination message from Kandiyohi County health officials

WILLMAR -- As a measles outbreak in Minnesota widens, Kandiyohi County health and emergency preparedness officials are urging parents to make sure their children are vaccinated. As of Thursday afternoon, the Minnesota Department of Health had con...

Measles vaccine
Briana Sanchez / Tribune Public health nurse Deb Floren shows a vial of the measles vaccine and syringe Thursday at the Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services Building in Willmar.

 

WILLMAR - As a measles outbreak in Minnesota widens, Kandiyohi County health and emergency preparedness officials are urging parents to make sure their children are vaccinated.

As of Thursday afternoon, the Minnesota Department of Health had confirmed 28 cases in Hennepin County and one in Stearns County . All were among children under age 5, most of them unvaccinated.

"Measles is very contagious and can spread very quickly," said Denise Kragenbring, public health supervisor with Kandiyohi County Public Health.

Families should check their immunization records to make sure they are protected and to get vaccinated if they are not, she said. "The vaccine is safe and effective."

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Because measles spreads easily among unvaccinated populations, it's especially important to be adequately protected during outbreaks, local health officials said.

The recommendation is for all Minnesota children 12 months and older who have not yet received the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine to get it now. Adults who have never received the MMR vaccine and have never had measles also should get the vaccine now.

Those who need help finding their immunization record should call their doctor's office or Kandiyohi County Public Health at 320-231-7800.

The MMR vaccine is given in two doses. The first dose offers protection and the second dose adds an extra layer of security.

The Minnesota Department of Health recommends that children receive their first MMR vaccine at 12 months. Infants younger than 12 months may still have some maternal protection if their mother was vaccinated or previously had measles.

Local medical clinics have launched an outreach effort to identify children who have not yet been vaccinated and remind their parents of the need for shots. This will be followed by a second wave of reminders targeting children who have received only one dose of the MMR vaccine, Kragenbring said.

Word of the measles outbreak appears to be getting out, said Lyle Loge of Affiliated Community Medical Centers.

"We've had some people come in already," he said Thursday.

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Of the 29 cases that have been confirmed in Minnesota so far, 25 were Somali Minnesotan children.

State officials have emphasized several times that the outbreak is not about specific communities. "This is about unvaccinated children," Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Minnesota Health Commissioner, said earlier this week.

But because so many of the current cases are among Somali children, the Minnesota Department of Health is recommending that all Somali Minnesotan children statewide who have already received their first dose of the MMR vaccine should get the second dose now.

The department's vaccine recommendations may expand if the measles outbreak spreads to more communities.

Symptoms of measles include a high fever, cough, runny nose, watery eyes and a rash that spreads from the head to the rest of the body.

Local medical clinics are asking parents who think their child may have measles to call their doctor first, rather than bringing the child to the clinic and potentially exposing others. Children with symptoms that might be measles also should be kept home from school and day care.

Before the introduction of the measles vaccine in 1963, 450 to 500 children in the U.S. died from the disease and 48,000 were hospitalized each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The effectiveness of the MMR vaccine has greatly reduced the incidence of measles in the United States but the disease is still common in other parts of the world. Outbreaks occur periodically in the U.S. when travelers bring in the disease, which then can spread when it reaches unvaccinated communities.

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One of the largest outbreaks in recent years occurred in 2015. It was linked to two Disney theme parks in California and involved 147 cases in seven states.

See related story on Stearns County measles case here .

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