Measles in Minnesota

Yesterday afternoon, the Minnesota Department of Health reported that 60 people (mostly children) in four counties across the state. This measles outbreak is the worst in the state in nearly 30 years, and that last outbreak occurred during a time when measles was still endemic in the United States and only one dose of the MMR vaccine was recommended for children. So why is a state with robust public health resources in a country where measles has been eliminated seeing a large measles outbreak?

We look behind the scenes of this outbreak in our latest podcast.

I am a proud resident of Minnesota–frigid winters and all. I worried about covering this outbreak in a podcast because I wondered if it was too personal to me and if others across the country would be disinterested. An article written by Lena Sun in the Washington Post changed my mind. It also changed the conversation about this measles outbreak. Many regular people (those who vaccinate their children and never think about it again) are for the first time seeing how the anti-vaccine movement directly causes outbreaks of disease. And since about a fourth of the children sickened in this outbreak are now hospitalized, many Millenial and Gen X parents are getting their first education about the real dangers of measles.

And so I decided that the story was important, not just because the children who are at risk still for getting sick deserve someone to speak up for them, but also because it is a dramatic illustration about why we need everyone (including those who vaccinate their children and had never thought of it again) to work against anti-vaccine misinformation and the rising incidence of vaccine hesitancy.

I also knew I was in a unique position to talk to the people working directly on this outbreak and looking to the future to stop future outbreaks. I have worked with some amazing people in Minnesota, and I am immensely proud of their compassion and their persistence in the face of a frustrating situation.

In this podcast, Dr. Nathan Boonstra and I interviewed Joe Kurland, an infection preventionist at Children’s Minnesota, where a significant number of cases in this outbreak have been treated. We also spoke to Representative Mike Freiberg, who has worked for years in the Minnesota legislature to promote evidence-based public health measures and to educate his colleagues about the importance of immunization.

No matter where you live, I think we have created a podcast that educates everyone about what measles is, how outbreaks get started, how hospitals and parents protect their children during outbreaks, and how policymakers can respond to outbreaks. So please listen and share.

 

Karen Ernst is the Executive Director of Voices for Vaccines.

Editor’s note: I wish to thank everyone working so hard right now. Thank you to the people at MDH, including (but not limited to) Lynn Bahta, Margo Roddy, Kris Ehresmann, Andrea Ahneman, and Asli Ashkir. Also thank you to the people working the front lines in health care, including Patsy Stinchfield, Dr. Dawn Martin, Dr. Stacene Maroushek, Dr. Andrew Kiragu, and the many, many pediatricians, nurses, and HCWs working diligently to treat sick children and prevent others from becoming sick. Thank you to Representative Ilhan Omar for speaking out. Thank you, also, to Minnesota AAP (especially Kathy Cairns) and to the Immunization Action Coalition. And lastly, a big, big thank you to the parents and others involved in the Minnesota Childhood Immunization Coalition, Minneapolis Moms, and Vaccinate Minnesota Kids. I wish you all could have been on the podcast, but then it would have been too long for anyone to listen to.