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As measles cases pass 50, health commissioner wants $5M emergency fund

Health budgets are eating the $3M cost of responding to Minnesota's measles outbreak.
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Minnesota is asking for $5 million in emergency funding to support the state's response to infectious outbreaks, like the measles.

Health commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger is asking the state legislature to approve the contingency fund to ensure his department has the resources available for "immediate, life-saving actions to protect Minnesotans."

He says the cost of state and local responses to measles, tuberculosis and syphilis cases has already hit $3 million so far this year, and he wants there to be a $5 million emergency fund constantly available for future outbreaks so the health department can dip into it instead of diverting money from existing budgets.

The department also spent significant amounts when handling the state's response to the Zika and Ebola outbreaks the past few years, the commissioner said.

"Minnesotans rightly expect a rapid and effective response to these threats, but current state funds lack the flexibility needed to deal with emergent disease threats," Dr. Ehlinger said. "We cannot continue diverting funding and resources away from other vital public health services to respond to disease outbreaks and threats."

It comes as the number of people in Minnesota who have been infected with measles passes the 50 mark.

There are 51 active cases in the state, 47 of them affecting people who have not been immunized with the MMR vaccine, most of them coming from the Somali-American population.

Dr. Ehlinger has the support of Gov. Mark Dayton, who will advocate for the contingency being included in the two-year budget currently being discussed at state legislature level.

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