Measles Outbreak Update

Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 5:56am

Minnesota Outbreak Poses Local Risks & Concerns

As of yesterday morning the Minnesota Department of Health reports 14 confirmed cases of measles. Thirteen of the cases have been linked to a case in which the infection was acquired in Kenya and one case in which the infection was acquired in Florida. Cases have ranged in age from 4 months to 51 years old. Five of the cases were too young to receive vaccine, six were of age but were not vaccinated, and three have unknown vaccine status. There have been eight hospitalizations and no deaths. The majority of the reported cases were in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area.

Given the amount of travel between Dane County and the Twin Cities, and the number of Dane County residents attending colleges in that area, this outbreak is a little closer to home than the physical distance suggests. While outbreaks of this size appear to be relatively small and slow moving, the risks that they present can be significant, especially to unvaccinated individuals and groups.

As we reported last week, measles is considered one of the most infectious viruses known to mankind. It has killed more children than any other disease in history. Even though vaccines have brought the rate of measles to very low levels, it is still a serious disease. According to the CDC, measles will lead to pneumonia in one out of 20 cases, and death for one to two cases per 1000 infected children.

The good news is that measles is a vaccine-preventable disease. The vaccine itself covers measles, mumps and rubella (MMR). The recommended first dose is for children 12 - 15 months of age and the second is at four to six years of age. Both doses are required for attendance in Wisconsin schools. The best way to protect children under 12 months of age is to make sure that everyone around them has been vaccinated.

The challenge locally is that according to the most recent available data, approximately 17 percent of Dane County children have not received their first dose of vaccine by the age of 19 months. This gap presents a risk to those children and to the community at large. While there have been no reported measles cases in Dane County since 2000, the proximity and slow growth of the Minnesota outbreak is of concern.

If you or your children are not yet vaccinated, now may be the very best time to take action. Vaccinations are available through your health care provider or clinic. They are also available through Public Health at our clinics. For details on eligibility and schedules, please see our immunization website at:

For more information on measles, check the CDC's website at


Public Health Madison & Dane County


  • Jeff Golden(608) 243-0302