Saturday, 19 August, 2017

Minnesota measles outbreak prompts emergency fund request

MDH Commissioner Requests $5M For Infectious Disease Response $5 million sought for measles outbreak response
Carol Daniels | 13 May, 2017, 10:43

Wednesday the Department of Health asked Minnesota lawmakers for $5 million in emergency funds to deal with the outbreak.

"In recent months, state and local public health officials have had to respond to a series of infectious disease outbreaks including multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, hundreds of new cases of syphilis, and now, the largest measles outbreak the state has faced in almost 30 years", Ehlinger said in a statement.

Minnesota is now in the middle of the largest outbreak of measles in over twenty years. Two doses of MMR vaccine are 97% effective against measles, 88% effective against mumps and 97% effective against rubella (CDC, 2016).

Ninety percent of people who are not vaccinated will catch measles if they are exposed.

At Children's Minnesota, doctors are treating 34 of the state's 48 confirmed cases.

One year earlier, according to the Minnesota Refugee Health Report for 2014 issued by MDH, seven out of 1,172 newly arrived refugees screened for syphillis were infected with the disease.

Scientific studies have shown there is no direct correlation between the MMR vaccine and increased risk in autism, even among children considered at high risk for the disorder.

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The measles virus commonly travels through the air where it can live for up to two hours, making it more contagious than the flu. Severe cases of measles can lead to death. "This is a hugely expensive outbreak". The four Crow Wing County cases are the first in the outbreak for greater Minnesota.

The state health department is encouraging numerous families in the targeted community to get vaccinations for their children. "There are economic costs for their families, and there are costs to the public health system", she added.

"We have had staff working every single weekend since April 11", she said. "That's because you must wait 21 days since the last case onset until you can feel things are really over".

Health professionals within and outside the Somali community say that anti-vaxxers have a history of stoking fear within the community by spreading misinformation linking vaccines to autism - a connection that has been disproven again and again.

Health providers say measles has difficulty spreading in areas where at least 95-percent of the population is immunized. "We can not continue diverting funding and resources away from other vital public health services to respond to disease outbreaks and threats", Ehlinger said.

Ehlinger revealed that the department's funds were also stretched as it had to screen travelers and pregnant women for Zika virus. Minnesota state health officials expect the outbreak to last for months and say the epidemic can't be declared over until six weeks pass with no new reported cases. Moreover, the resources of the local and state health departments are stretched.

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