MINNEAPOLIS — An incident command team from the Minnesota Department of Health is overseeing a coordinated effort to stop the spread of measles, as the department fights an outbreak that is now the state’s worst since 1990.

The team, which includes about two dozen members, has identified 7,000 people exposed to the virus at 11 child care centers, three schools and about 20 health care settings, the Star Tribune (http://strib.mn/2rhX0BQ ) reported. They’ve asked nearly 500 people to limit public contact because they lack immunity protection.

The team has been meeting daily to monitor new cases, review infection control efforts and coordinate with local health officials. The outbreak has grown to 58 cases.

A low vaccination rate among Somalis has contributed to the spread of the disease in child care centers. In the past four weeks, nearly 1,600 Somali children have been vaccinated. That’s up from just 140 in the month before the outbreak.

“The more people you get that are not susceptible makes it harder and harder for the virus to get to those who are susceptible,” said Kris Ehresmann, the department’s infectious disease director. “It is all about building that wall around the virus.”

A major part of the control effort is finding people who have been exposed to known cases, especially people who aren’t immune to measles. Public health officials can potentially prevent them from getting sick and infecting others by intervening early.

“You want to get ahead of the outbreak and catch cases early,” said Melissa McMahon, an epidemiologist for the department.

State health officials were notified Thursday about a Minneapolis child care center that wasn’t cooperating with efforts to stop the spread of measles.

“We could continue to see new cases from this,” said Jennifer Heath, who leads the department’s efforts with child care centers and schools.

Heath and the group contacted the Minnesota Department of Human Services, which oversees child care providers, to ask for enforcement help.


Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com