Allina Health is telling patients that all children under the age of 5 cannot be brought to one of its hospitals unless they're getting medical care.
The move is in response to the measles outbreak that has seen more than 40 people across three Minnesota counties infected, most of them unvaccinated children from the Somali-American community.
Parents of children under the age of 5 are being asked by Allina not to bring their children to the hospital unless they are seeking medical help – so no bringing them to visit a patient, for example. (Exceptions are being made for young children visiting relatives that are in the hospital, depending on how serious their condition is.)
Meanwhile, children between 5 and 10 years old must wear a mask at all times while in a hospital or clinic, and anyone with a cough or sore throat should also wear a mask.
The new restrictions apply to all of Allina's 12 healthcare facilities in Minnesota and one in Wisconsin, including those outside of the counties where the measles cases have been reported – Hennepin, Ramsey and Crow Wing.
At the latest count, there have been 44 confirmed cases of measles in the state, of which 41 are in Hennepin County. In all but two of the cases, unvaccinated people have been infected. The remaining two had both doses of the MMR vaccine.
Allina Health hospitals include:
- Abbott Northwestern Hospital, Minneapolis
- Buffalo Hospital
- Cambridge Medical Center
- District One Hospital, Faribault
- Mercy Hospital, Coon Rapids
- Mercy Hospital – Unity Campus, Fridley
- New Ulm Medical Center
- Owatonna Hospital
- Phillips Eye Institute, Minneapolis
- Regina Hospital, Hastings
- River Falls Area Hospital, Wisconsin
- St. Francis Regional Medical Center, Shakopee
- United Hospital, St. Paul
The outbreak has pushed under the microscope the role of anti-vaccination groups that have been targeting Somali communities over the past decade, urging them not to vaccinate their children over fears it could lead to autism. In two decades of research, there has been no evidence found of a link between MMR vaccines and autism.
Minnesota health officials are urging anyone with children over the age of 12 months to make sure the kids have had both of their MMR vaccines.