Local healthcare providers concerned for potential measles outbreak

Published: Dec. 13, 2022 at 2:51 PM CST
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - Fargo Cass Public Health (FCPH), along with Essentia Health, Family Healthcare, North Dakota Health & Human Services, NDSU Center for Immunization Research and Education, and Sanford Health, release a community letter as an urgent call to action for parents and guardians of children.

Says Dr. Tracie Newman, Health Officer for FCPH, “Population-level immunity rates this low leave our area more susceptible to disease outbreak. If your child is due for a measles vaccine, we strongly encourage you to schedule with your provider or at public health as soon as possible. This ensures safe and effective protection for, not only your child and family, but for all of us.”

Brenton Nesemeier, Field Epidemiologist with North Dakota Health & Human Services, says “With 22 confirmed measles cases in our neighboring state of Minnesota and continued expected outbreaks, the time to act is now. We urge every family to ensure their children are up-to-date on MMR vaccinations and to monitor carefully for any signs of a measles infection.”

About measles

· Measles is an airborne virus and thought to be one of the most contagious infectious diseases.

· When one person has measles, up to 90% of their close contacts who are not immune will become infected.

· Measles can be especially dangerous for infants and younger children.

· One in every 500 people infected with measles will die.

· Infected people can spread measles to others anywhere from 4 days before to 4 days after the rash appears.

· Initial symptoms include runny nose, cough, high fevers, and red, watery eyes.

· Additional symptoms include small white spots inside of the cheeks appear, along with a red bumpy rash that starts on the face and spreads over the body.

· Measles infections are dangerous, averaging high hospitalization rates (20-50%).

· People with confirmed measles infection and those exposed to the virus and without immunity must quarantine for 21 days after exposure. This includes quarantine from work and/or school.

Vaccination options

Families are encouraged to contact their child’s healthcare provider with questions about vaccine or to make an appointment. The FCPH Immunization Clinic also provides the measles vaccine. Appointments can be made by calling 701.241.1383.

The letter reads:

While no measles cases have been identified in North Dakota, outbreaks are occurring in Minnesota and Ohio. Since November 2022, 74 measles cases have been identified in central Ohio, including 26 children who required hospital care (hospitalization rate ranging from 35-40%). Of the 74 cases, 69 children were unvaccinated, 4 were partially vaccinated, meaning they had received only 1 dose of the measles mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. Two children had an unknown vaccination status. Also impacted were 17 children under the age of 1, who, due to their age, were not yet eligible for the vaccine.

As public health and healthcare providers in the community, we encourage parents and guardians to make sure their children are up-to-date with measles vaccine. Holiday gatherings and get-togethers are right around the corner and the time to act is now.

It is recommended all children receive 2 doses of the MMR vaccine, the first at ages 12-15 months and the second at 4-6 years, to be fully protected against measles. While one dose of MMR has 93% efficacy at preventing measles infections, 2 doses are 97% effective.

In Cass County, there is nearly a 94% MMR vaccination rate for children kindergarten age and older. However, the vaccination rate for children ages 19-35 months is only 83%. A population or community needs 95% immunization coverage to prevent a measles outbreak.

In recent years, there has been a nationwide drop in vaccination rates among children. This has led to several outbreaks, which are largely preventable.

This community letter is signed by:

Dr. Paul Carson, Director of the NDSU Center for Immunization Research and Education

Patrick Gulbranson, Chief Executive Officer, Family HealthCare

Dr. Avish Nagpal, Medical Director, Infection Prevention, Sanford Health Fargo

Brenton Nesemeier, Field Epidemiologist with North Dakota Health & Human Services

Dr. Tracie Newman, Health Officer, Fargo Cass Public Health

Dr. Richard Vetter, Chief Medical Officer, Essentia Health