A third travel-related case of measles in the state in less than six weeks prompted state health officials to urge Minnesotans to make sure they and their families are up to date on their measles vaccinations before they travel.
Large measles outbreaks are occurring in several areas around the world, including Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa and South America. Anyone who travels to these areas who is not fully vaccinated with the measles, mumps and rubella, or MMR, vaccine is at high risk for contracting measles.
"As we've said before, measles, like a number of other vaccine-preventable diseases, is just a plane ride away. That's why it's so important for both adults and children to be up to date on the recommended vaccines before they travel," said Kris Ehresmann, director of infectious disease for MDH, in a news release.
Ehresmann noted travelers are not the only ones at risk. "All Minnesotans should make sure they are vaccinated against measles. Keeping vaccination rates high is the best way to protect our communities because measles can spread before we even know it is here."
The Minnesota Department of Health late last week identified a case of measles in a 24-month old child who recently returned from a trip to the Middle East, where measles is common.
The Ramsey County child, who was partially vaccinated for measles, mumps and rubella, was likely infectious between Sept. 6 and Sept. 14. Local public health staff, as well as clinic and hospital staff where the child was treated, are notifying people who may have been exposed in specific settings.
MDH issued a notice Friday, Sept. 14, to health care providers in the metro area to be alert for patients with signs or symptoms of measles and to ask about travel history. Health officials said likely exposures to this case appear to be limited and the risk to the public is low. If additional cases were to develop as a result of this case, they would likely occur between now and Oct. 5.
Measles is highly contagious and spreads easily by coughing, sneezing or even being in the same room with someone who has measles.
In some situations measles can lead to hospitalization and even death. Symptoms include a high fever, cough, runny nose and watery eyes followed by a rash. Early symptoms of measles can look like many other common illnesses. Anyone who is unvaccinated and/or has traveled recently and notice symptoms of measles, call a health care provider right away and they will determine whether a visit is warranted.
Vaccination is the best way to prevent measles. Children should receive two doses of MMR vaccine: The first at 12 to 15 months of age, and the second at 4 to 6 years old. Children 6 to 12 months should get an early dose of MMR vaccine if they are traveling to a country where measles is common. For all ages, it is important to talk to a doctor if traveling to another country. A doctor can check to make sure people are up to date on vaccinations.
While most people in Minnesota are protected against measles through vaccination or natural disease, MDH encourages people to check their records to confirm that they and their children have received the MMR vaccine if they are unsure. Many Minnesotans can request their vaccination records by visiting https://tinyurl.com/ImmunRecords.
Measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, but Minnesota still sees one to four cases of measles each year, typically in people who traveled to countries where measles is common.
For more information about measles, see the MDH measles website. For information on CDC travel notices for measles, visit www.cdc.gov/measles/travelers.html.