MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Department of Health say they're now investigating 21 cases of measles in the Twin Cities metro area.
So far, health officials say nine children have been hospitalized since June.
"I think we are seeing a resurgence of cases in which kids are presenting with measles illness, really because of opportunity," said Dr. Gigi Chawla, Chief of General Pediatrics at Children's Minnesota.
The illness spreads easily and symptoms include a high fever, cough, runny nose and watery eyes, followed by a spreading rash.
Measles is highly contagious and can be a very serious disease, causing hospitalizations and sometimes death.
"One person who gets measles infects about 12-18 people," said Dr. Chawla.
A spokesperson with MDH says the recent cases have occured in "distinct clusters" and "even one case of measles in Minnesota is considered an outbreak as we do not expect to see cases of a disease that is entirely preventable through immunizations."
"It is so infectious that if a person enters the room, and leaves, a couple of hours later, anyone else entering the room can get the illness, so it's difficult to prevent your child from getting a measles illness," said Dr. Chawla.
The last reported outbreak of measles in the state was in 2017, but officials say that outbreak was different.
"In 2017, there was a large number of cases due to spread in a community with low immunization rates," said a spokesperson with MDH. "The increase in cases we are seeing now has more to do with individuals who aren’t fully immunized that are travelling to countries where there is a lot of measles. So far, we have had five clusters of cases due to separate groups of people travelling to countries where measles is still common."
And these cases are happening while hospitals are dealing with an influx of patients with respiratory illnesses this fall.
"First, reach out to your primary care physician and triage," said Dr. Chawla. "If kids come, we will see your child in an expedient fashion, but because there is a surge, we do need to see the kids that are the most acutely ill first."
"As long as there are places in the world where measles is circulating and there are people who are unvaccinated, the potential for future outbreaks exists," a spokesperson for MDH said. "Also, people don’t have to travel to get measles. Some of these cases have resulted when children are exposed to others with measles. In past outbreaks we have seen children get measles from an exposure at school or childcare, so it is important to make sure that children and families are vaccinated with the MMR vaccine to ensure they are protected from measles, as well as to prevent anyone from having to miss any school or work because of an exposure. With measles, anyone who has been exposed and who is not immune has to stay home for 21 days until their risk of developing measles has passed."
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