MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Currently, the Minnesota Department of Health says there are 14 confirmed cases of measles in Minnesota, but health care professionals worry that more cases could come and history could repeat itself.
Nurse Practitioner Patsy Stinchfield is the infectious disease director at the Children’s Hospitals and Clinics in St. Paul, Minnesota. She remembers Minnesota’s deadly 1990 measles outbreak with more than 500 cases.
“I worked here at Children’s where we had a whole floor that was full of patients sick with measles, in the intensive care unit, on ventilators, three children died,” said Stinchfield.
Stinchfield says the 1990 outbreak began in the emerging Hmong community., where immigrants didn’t immediately access health care or understand the value of vaccines. Today, health investigators see similarities with the outbreak beginning in the Somali community.
A recent Somali forum over the weekend addressed concerns that the vaccine could be harmful. There, the Minnesota Council on Vaccine Safety argued the public needs more information about vaccine risks, and argued that parents should have a right to choose whether their children should be immunized.
Stinchfield says she isn’t sure the public understands how serious the measles infection is. Stinchfield says if an infected person walked through the hospital lobby, the virus would remain airborne for up to two hours and could infect someone without the MMR vaccine.
The hospital held a free clinic Sunday offering the Measles Mumps Rubella, or MMR vaccine. Stinchfield says the hospital expected hundreds, but only around two dozen turned out.
“We need our state to be at 95 percent or higher on the MMR vaccine, and at last check, we were at 82 percent,” said Stinchfield.
Stinchfield says an estimated 98 percent of school age children in Minnesota are vaccinated on time.
According to the Minnesota Department of Health, 13 of Minnesota’s 14 cases can be traced to a patient who traveled here through Kenya, while one case is tied to Florida. Cases have ranged in age from 4 months old to 51 years old.
Five of the cases were too young to receive vaccine, six were of age, but were not vaccinated, and three have unknown vaccine status.
The Minnesota Department of Health recommends people receive the vaccine in two doses — one as soon as possible after the first birthday and four weeks after that.
If you are an adult who had the vaccine, health experts say only a small group of people who missed the second dose should worry if they need the vaccine again.
Children’s experts tell us people in their 40s and early 50s should check with their doctors. That’s because the second MMR dose wasn’t required until 1989. People who were out of school by then might have missed the second vaccine.