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Minnesota measles outbreak spreads to the north

BRAINERD, Minn. --The unvaccinated child in Crow Wing County with measles is a student at a local Catholic school, a letter to parents from the Minnesota Department of Health said Wednesday.

"This letter is to inform you that measles has been diagnosed in a child who attends St. Francis of the Lakes Catholic School," the letter read. "Your child may have been exposed to measles. Measles is a very contagious disease caused by a virus."

St. Francis is a parochial school in Brainerd that teaches students in kindergarten through eighth grade. The health department reported Thursday a total of 41 confirmed cases since April 11, 2017. The majority of cases are in Hennepin County, and almost all are unvaccinated.

The child was not a Somali person, but did not provide further details in order to protect the child's identity. The outbreak has particularly affected unvaccinated children in the Somali community in the past few weeks, as 29 of the 34 confirmed cases so far are Somali and 32 are unvaccinated, according to MDH.

State health officials have now expanded their recommendations for stepped-up vaccination in an effort to curb the spread of the disease.

Measles is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and even death. It spreads very easily among unvaccinated people. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has made the following recommendations to protect children and adults during outbreaks: All children 12 months and older who have not received a measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine should get the first dose as soon as possible and adults born in 1957 or later who have never received the MMR vaccine and have never had measles should get the vaccine as soon as possible.

For children who have had one dose of the MMR vaccine, in counties where measles cases have been identified, children 12 months and older who received their first dose of the MMR vaccine at least 28 days ago should get their second dose as soon as possible.

Health care providers may recommend an early second dose of the MMR vaccine during routine appointments for children statewide.

Parents should contact their child's health care provider and specifically tell them the child needs the MMR vaccine. This may help avoid a longer wait associated with scheduling a routine appointment.

The MMR vaccine is given to children in two doses, typically at 12 months and between 4-6 years. The first dose offers good protection, and the second dose provides extra security. The accelerated vaccine schedule recommended is commonly used during outbreaks.

Babies younger than 12 months may have some protection from their mothers if their mothers have been vaccinated or have had measles. The current outbreak has caused illness almost exclusively in children older than 12 months.

Minnesotans who have received the MMR vaccine are considered protected. You can request immunization records by calling 651-201-3980 or visiting MIIC Immunization Records Requests.

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