Two cases of measles in Dakota County infants are being investigated by state and county health officials as one of the children remains hospitalized in critical condition.
The 12-month-old that’s in critical condition became ill in early August shortly after returning from Kenya where measles is currently endemic. The child was likely infectious from Aug. 4 through Aug. 17. A 15-month old became ill after visiting the family of the first child and is also hospitalized.
Neither were vaccinated against measles.
Dakota County Public Health staff and area clinic and hospital staff where the children were treated are notifying people who may have been exposed and offering vaccine or immune globulin when appropriate to decrease the chance they will develop measles.
If additional cases were to occur as a result of these cases, they would likely occur between now and Sept. 8, health officials said.
“Once again, the occurrence of measles in Minnesota reminds us how important it is to be vaccinated against diseases, such as measles,” said Dr. Aaron DeVries, medical director for the Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Prevention and Control Division at the Minnesota Department of Health “Measles is not a benign disease, but can be very serious, even life-threatening, as this situation demonstrates. Children can die from measles.”
Vaccination is especially important for those traveling to areas of the world where diseases such as measles are more common.
“Make sure you and your family are up to date on your immunizations before you travel,” DeVries said.
Normally the first dose of MMR vaccine is given to children at 12-15 months of age, but should be given to children 6-12 months of age who will be traveling internationally, particularly to areas where measles is endemic or outbreaks are occurring.
Currently there has been a resurgence of measles in many parts of the world including the United Kingdom, Europe, and Africa as vaccination rates have declined.
“Minnesota communities are at risk of a similar increase in cases if we do not maintain high measles vaccination rates,” said Kristen Ehresmann, director of the Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Prevention and Control Division at MDH. “Contrary to misinformation that may still be circulating, the measles vaccine is safe and effective. Without it, the risk of disease is real.”
MDH has alerted health care providers in the state, and particularly in Dakota County, to be alert for patients with signs or symptoms of measles. Anyone who has concerns about their health should contact their health care provider.
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. Vomiting or diarrhea can also accompany these symptoms.
It generally takes 8 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 typically 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 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 (unless traveling as noted above), and the second at four to six years of age.