The measles outbreak is over; here's what we learned

79 people got sick this year; here's what we learned.
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The Minnesota measles outbreak of 2017 is over, the state Health Department declared on Friday. 

The 79 people who got sick made it the state's worst year for measles since 1990, when there were a whopping 460 cases and three people died. 

This year the first cases were diagnosed in April and the last one in July

Most of those who got sick were kids younger than 10. Most were not vaccinated against the virus. Geographically, most of the cases were in Hennepin County – specifically among Somali Minnesotans. Find the numbers about this year's outbreak here or get a quick explanation of it in this video

You can learn more about what the measles virus is here

How do we know it's over?

It can take as long three weeks from the time somebody gets infected with measles until they start showing symptoms. When the whole state has been through a three-week cycle twice without any reported cases, health officials are ready to declare the outbreak over like they did Friday.

What did we learn?

If there's a silver lining in the measles outbreak, it might be that it got health officials to work more closely with Minnesota's Somali population, which is the biggest of any state.

Minnesota Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger said in Friday's statement he wants to keep the momentum going beyond measles to improve the community's health in other ways. 

In terms of lessons from this year's outbreak, here are some the Health Department identified:

  • Communicate better with parents who are hesitant about getting their kids vaccinated. 
  • Use an advisory group to help work with the Somali community.
  • Train Somali faith and health leaders about diseases that can be prevented with vaccines. And about autism, which scientists agree is unrelated to vaccines (despite what some critics have claimed).
  • Do more outreach to parents, child care centers, and schools – especially those where a high percentage of families have decided not to get vaccinated. 

Have to be vigilant

The U.S. was declared measles-free back in 2000 and that's still the case, sort of. 

The problem is measles are still around in other countries. So American travelers who aren't vaccinated sometimes bring the virus back with them. 

That's why the Health Department's Kris Ehresmann said Friday Minnesotans have to stay vigilant about getting our kids vaccinated. 

“As long as measles exists elsewhere in the world and there are clusters of unvaccinated people here, another outbreak could happen," she said. "Measles is just a plane ride away." 

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