HIBBING — Measles is a contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus. Symptoms begin with a mild to moderate fever, coughing and a runny nose, and can develop into a high fever and a red, blotchy rash that begins on the face and spreads down the body.

Because of its contagious nature, measles knows no boundaries.

“Measles is highly contagious and travels with people. It does not stop at a county or state border,” said Dr. Rajesh Prabhu, chief patient quality and safety officer/infectious disease specialist at Essentia Health. “At this point, the overall risk of getting measles is very low, but that risk is still not worth it when we have a safe and highly effective vaccine. If you don’t know if your child is up to date with their immunizations, please contact your doctor’s office.”

Although it is uncommon in the United States for measles outbreaks to occur, this spring has seen a rash of measles cases in south and central Minnesota.

As of May 10, Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) officials have documented 51 cases of measles in Minnesota this spring, mostly in Hennepin County. However, a recent case of measles was documented in Crow Wing County. There is also two confirmed cases in Ramsey County.

Measles can be deadly, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says two doses of vaccination are about 97 percent effective in heading off the disease.

“Measles is easily prevented through immunization, which is extremely safe and effective,” Prabhu said. “Children and adults that have been fully immunized should have no concern about contracting measles. However, if your child has not been immunized, I would strongly encourage to get them immunized with the MMR vaccine and other vaccines that may be due or overdue.”

The MDH recommends vaccinations for children age 12 months and older who have not received a MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine and adults who have not had measles or a measles vaccination.

If you are wondering whether or not you have been immunized, the state’s information system called the Minnesota Immunization Information Connection (MIIC) can provide immunization records. Just contact your clinic.

If you suspect someone in your family has been exposed to measles, be sure to stay home and avoid having visitors until you have talked with your doctor or clinic. Your doctor or clinic will tell you if you should go in for a visit.

If you have not been vaccinated, getting an MMR shot within three days of being exposed may prevent you from getting measles.

The Minnesota Vaccines for Children (MnVFC) program offers free or low-cost shots for children 18 years of age and younger.

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