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'U' Student With Measles Passes Infectious Stage

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Minnesota's only active measles case, a 20-year-old University of Minnesota student, has passed the infectious stage.

It will be at least another week until health officials find out if that one case spread elsewhere.

"The people who are most at risk from this particular case would be those who may have been in classes with this student, or lives with this person," Minnesota State Health Department's Lynn Bahta said. "It can include people in the building, because the measles virus is small enough that is hovers ... for up to two hours in the air."

Last year, there were two cases in the state. There were more than 20 in 2011, and an outbreak of more than 400 cases here in 1989 and 1990 led to three deaths.

"It's kind of a reminder to us that this is a real disease, that it still does visit us here in Minnesota," Bahta said, "and that it is important to protect our children and ourselves."

The measles virus doesn't usually circulate in the United States, which is why there is a concern over the recent rise of cases nationwide.  Bahta says it's important to get a measles vaccination, because the virus is somehow drawn to those who are not immune.

"This virus is good at finding those who are susceptible," Bahta said.

People born before 1957 are generally immune because they likely had the measles, which results a lifelong immunity against the virus. Some of the vaccines used in the early 1960s were not effective, but eventually the number of cases began to drop. Despite the progress the risk, however small, is still there.

"It's not just an innocuous rite of passage of childhood. Measles kill children," University of Minnesota pediatrician Dr. Mark Schleiss said.

Schleiss told WCCO's John Hines that two out of 1,000 children who get the measles die from the infection.

"This outbreak that we're seeing now is very concerning because we have a lot of pockets of unimmunized children in the United States that are at high risk," Schleiss said.

Babies usually get their measles shot around their first birthday. That's because maternal antibodies could prevent the infant from responding to the vaccine, especially in the first six months of life.

"Infants under one year of age, that's really the target population we want to protect," Schleiss said. "That's where most of the complications and, unfortunately, occasionally, mortality is seen."

Lynn Bahta Interview

Dr. Mark Schleiss Interview


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