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Update: 9 measles cases confirmed in Hennepin County

Health officials are working with the community to clear up misinformation about vaccines.

Health officials have confirmed nine cases of measles in Hennepin County.

In an update Monday, the Minnesota Department of Health said all the cases involve unvaccinated kids ages 1-4.

The health department continues to monitor this outbreak, and will post updated case numbers online here daily at 1 p.m.

For more, read the story from Sunday below. 

Five more cases of measles have been confirmed in Hennepin County, bringing the total number in the outbreak to eight.

The Minnesota Department of Health says the eight confirmed cases involve kids between the ages of 1 and 4, noting none of them were vaccinated. Six of the kids were hospitalized.

The health department says seven of the confirmed cases are Somali Minnesotans. And all but one of the cases have a common contact. The agency is now looking into how the kids got infected, and are working with people who've been exposed to them so they can take protective actions.

“Measles can spread easily among unvaccinated people, and we’re working with the Somali community in the Twin Cities to alert people to the outbreak,” Kris Ehresmann of MDH said in a statement. “The best way to protect yourself and your community is to make sure everyone has been vaccinated.”

The health department will continue to monitor any additional cases over the next few weeks.

Symptoms of measles can include a high fever, cough, runny nose and watery eyes, and a rash that spreads from the head to the rest of the body. It’s a serious illness that can lead to hospitalization or even death, MDH said.

Although measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, Minnesota still sees a handful of cases every year mostly due to international travel (it's still a common disease in other parts of the world).

That said, there is a risk that cases will rise because immunization rates have been declining in some communities and groups amid skepticism about mandatory vaccinations, as described in this New Republic piece.

“This outbreak is about unvaccinated children, not specific communities,” Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger said. “Unfortunately, the Minnesota Somali community has been targeted with misinformation about vaccine risks. We’re partnering with Somali community leaders and health care providers to counteract that misinformation. We want as many Minnesotans as possible to protect themselves and their families by getting vaccinated.”

Some 79 percent of U.S. measles cases in 2014 affected people who were unvaccinated because of “personal belief exemptions,” the health department said, citing Centers for Disease Control figures.

In 2016, the CDC said there were 70 confirmed cases of measles across 16 states. This was down from 2015 when there were 188 cases.

For more information on measles and the measles vaccine, click here.

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