UPDATE: MN Measles Epidemic Keeps Climbing – 32 Confirmed Cases

31 of 32 cases are confirmed to be afflicting unvaccinated individuals.

MINNEAPOLIS – The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) says the current measles epidemic has climbed to 32 confirmed cases.

The latest number measles cases surpasses the last measles outbreak in Minnesota in 2011 with 26 confirmed cases. In just two weeks, from April 14 to April 28th, the number of cases in this outbreak quadrupled from 8 to 32.

According to the MDH, 30 of the 32 cases are in Hennepin County, with one case confirmed in Stearns County and now one case has been confirmed in Ramsey County. The cases of the outbreak range from zero to five years in age. Of all the cases, 31 are confirmed to be unvaccinated, while only one of the cases had 1 MMR vaccination.

The MDH website said 28 of the confirmed cases involve Somali Minnesotans.

MDH recommends that all Somali Minnesotan children statewide who have already received their first dose of MMR vaccine get their second dose now.

“We expect to see more cases,” MDH Communications Specialist Doug Schultz told Alpha News earlier this week, “How many more it is hard to say.  There is a long incubation period for measles. People can be infectious, but not know it.”

According to MDH Infectious Disease Director, Kris Ehresmann, some of the children involved in this epidemic have been hospitalized.

The MDH warns that measles is a serious disease that can lead to pneumonia, encephalitis, even death and can spread easily among unvaccinated people. The MDH website stresses the importance of its vaccine recommendations, which protect children and adults during outbreaks. They recommend all Minnesota children 12 months and older who have not received a measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine should get it now. The MDH also recommends that adults who have never received the MMR vaccine and have never had measles should get vaccinated immediately.

Measles symptoms include a high fever, runny nose, cough, and watery eyes, followed by a rash that starts from the head and spreads to the rest of the body. It is highly contagious and can be spread by coughing, sneezing, or being in the same place with someone who has the disease.

Somali activists have been posting videos on Facebook urging families to get their children vaccinated.

Abdirizak Bihi, an activist for the Somali community told WCCO, “Next few weeks, few days, our Imams, our healthcare providers will be assembling quick meetings to really get the word out and urge the community to get the vaccinations.”

“The number of childcare facilities involved in the outbreak is expanding,” Schultz told Alpha News.  Initially, the outbreak involved two daycare centers and is now up to five, according to Schultz. The daycare centers serve primarily Somali children.

In addition to the measles epidemic, the University of Minnesota sent out an email last week confirming six cases of mumps on campus.  Dr. Gary Christenson, Chief Medical Officer at Boynton Health clinic, the primary health clinic at UMN, told Alpha News there was likely no connection between the outbreaks.

Earlier this year, Alpha News reported St. Louis Park High School and Eden Prairie’s Central Middle School had cases of active tuberculosis (TB), another disease that is highly contagious and extremely rare in the United States. In October 2016, Alpha News reported that the number of active TB infections in refugees living in Minnesota between 2010 and 2014 is ten times higher than any other state.

Donna Azarian