The measles outbreak in Minnesota has reached 32 cases spanning three counties.
Measles cases had been confined to Hennepin County until this week. The Minnesota Department of Health said Thursday it had confirmed a case in Stearns County, and then in its update Friday said there was also a case in Ramsey County.
These 32 cases mark the highest number of measles cases in the state since 1990, KSTP reports. That year, health officials confirmed 460 cases, including three deaths.
In more recent years, there have only been a handful of measles cases, sometimes none – except for 2011, when there were 26 confirmed cases, health department statistics show.
Who's getting measles?
According to the health department, all the confirmed cases involve kids age 0-5, including 31 cases where the child hadn't been vaccinated. In one case, the child had one dose of the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine.
The majority of the cases – 28 – involve Somali Minnesotans, who tend to have a lower vaccination rate than the general population. That's due to misinformation about vaccine risks, Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger said earlier this month, noting health officials are working with the Somali community to fight the measles outbreak.
Ehlinger says this outbreak isn't about specific communities, though. People from all backgrounds have decided not to get vaccinated due to "inaccurate information."
Vaccine is the best protection
Getting vaccinated is the best protection against measles – and many other diseases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), two doses of the MMR vaccine are 97 percent effective at preventing measles. One dose is 93 percent effective.
That's why the Minnesota Department of Health is urging Minnesota families to get vaccinations for all kids 12 months or older. They say adults who have not had measles and have not been vaccinated should also get the shots, which are administered in two separate doses.
And if you or your child hasn't gotten the second dose of their MMR vaccine, they should talk to their doctor and get it now.
Health officials encourage people who are traveling internationally to make sure they've been vaccinated as well – that's typically how outbreaks start in the U.S. Although measles was eradicated in the U.S. in 2000, it's still around in other countries. So when someone who isn't vaccinated goes overseas, they can bring it back here and infect those who aren't vaccinated by a sneeze, cough or just being in the same room as them.
Measles symptoms include a high fever, cough, runny nose and watery eyes. A rash follows, which typically spreads from the head to the rest of the body. It can be fatal.