Measles in Minnesota: Outbreak worse than last year

The number of cases identified in the recent measles outbreak in Minnesota has reached 73 this week, surpassing the 70 cases identified nationally in 2016.

A lack of vaccinations has been cited as one of the reasons for the outbreak. This is a frustrating reality for Kristen Ehresmann, director of the Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Prevention, and Control Division at the state Department of Health. She stressed prevention in an interview with CNN:

“Many of the cases could have been prevented if people had gotten vaccinated. This outbreak has gone on now for eight weeks. This is a disease that is serious, and the opportunity to prevent it is one that we really need to be taking. … We’d rather invest in preventing disease than spend funds fighting it. We want to focus on promoting health in those instances where we can rather than fighting disease. When we talk about an exposure to measles, we’re really talking about any time people have shared air space. Just sharing air space is sufficient to transmit the virus. … It’s transmitted via the respiratory route.”

Roughly 8,250 have been exposed to the virus in Minnesota, resulting in 21 hospitalizations so far. Patricia Stinchfield, director of infection prevention and control for Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota joined her voice with that of Ehresmann in advocating for vaccinations:

“Measles is a dangerous and vaccine-preventable disease. There is no reason to decline MMR unless the individual is too young to be vaccinated or has a severe immunodeficiency and they cannot be vaccinated. The reason we vaccinate is because of the potential for infection of the brain or lungs that can cause permanent and lasting damage. Death from measles is one to two per 1,000 cases because there is no antiviral medicine against measles. All we can do is provide IV fluids, oxygen and support and hope they survive. The best way to prevent measles is to get vaccinated with MMR on schedule. Do not listen to false messages from anti-vaccine groups, and know that to decline vaccination is to put your child at risk.”

Many of those afflicted with measles are members of the Somali-American communities in Minnesota.  The state has quickly become the resettlement preference for refugees.   In a report last month, DML highlighted how refugees are leaving other states and heading for MN because they can find large refugee communities in areas like Minneapolis and St. Paul.  You can read the report by clicking here.

As Minnesota continues to deal with the outbreak, the story offers another feather in the cap for those advocating the safety and necessity of vaccines.  It also offers credit to those who call for the U.S. to stop taking in refugees at the wicked pace it is today.

 

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