News release: Health officials investigate case of measles in Hennepin County infant

News Release
March 4, 2011
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Health officials investigate case of measles in Hennepin County infant

High vaccination rates among Minnesotans generally keeps disease at bay

The Minnesota Department of Health is working closely with Hennepin County Public Health and Hennepin County Medical Center in investigating a case of measles in an infant who lives in Minneapolis.

The child became ill in late February and was likely infectious from Feb. 22 through March 2. Hennepin County Public Health staff and Hennepin County Medical Center staff are notifying people who may have been exposed in specific settings such as a hospital or residence. The child was hospitalized and is recovering.

Because the child's family recently moved from Chicago and spent time in Indiana, the child could have been exposed to measles in Illinois, Indiana or Minnesota. The child was too young to be vaccinated for measles.

The child spent time out in the community in Minneapolis while infectious. However, the risk to the general public of infection from this case is relatively low, health officials stressed, because vaccination rates for measles in Minnesota are very high. Most people in Minnesota have either had the measles or been vaccinated for measles. The greatest risk is to those who may have been exposed to the child and have not been vaccinated.

"This case reminds us of the importance of getting vaccinated for diseases, such as measles, which can be prevented with vaccines," said Dr. Ruth Lynfield, state epidemiologist. "Vaccines are an extremely effective tool for prevention of diseases like measles. We are fortunate in Minnesota to have high vaccination rates. We have had seven cases including this one over the past five years; some have been related to travel to areas where measles is more common."

The U.K and Europe see hundreds of cases every year. While once nearly eradicated in those countries as it is in the United States, measles resurged after vaccination rates dropped.

"We need to maintain our high vaccination rates in the United Sates to make sure measles does not gain a foothold here," Kristen Ehresmann, Director of the infectious disease division said. "Contrary to misinformation that may still be circulating, the measles vaccine is safe and effective. Without it, the risk of disease is real. Children can die from measles."

MDH has alerted health care providers in the state, and particularly in the metro area, to be alert for patients with signs or symptoms of measles. Anyone who has concerns about their health should contact their health care provider. If additional cases were to occur as a result of this case, they would likely occur between March 1 and March 19, health officials said.

Symptoms of measles include fever, runny nose, cough, loss of appetite, watery eyes and a rash. The rash usually lasts five to six days and begins at the hairline, moves to the face and upper neck, and proceeds down the body.

It generally takes eight to 12 days from exposure to the first symptom, which is usually fever. The measles rash usually appears two to three days after the fever begins.

Measles is spread through the air by infectious droplets and is highly contagious. It can be transmitted from four days before the rash becomes visible to four days after the rash appears.

There is no specific treatment for measles. People with measles need bed rest, fluids and control of fever. Patients may need treatment specific to any complications.

Complications may occur in 30 percent of those infected and are more frequent in children under 5 years and in adults and include diarrhea, pneumonia, ear infections and rarely encephalitis. Pregnant women may experience complications such as premature labor and stillbirth. Measles can be especially severe in people with weakened immune systems.

Children should receive two doses of the Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR) vaccine: The first at 12 to 15 months of age, and the second at four to six years of age.

More information on measles can be found on the MDH website at:


For more information, contact:

Doug Schultz
MDH Communications

Dr. Ruth Lynfield
State Epidemiologist

Kristen Ehresmann
Director, Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Prevention and Control Division