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Measles case reported in MN

A contagious viral disease that was reported to be all but eradicated from the United States in the year 2000 has been making an unwelcome comeback — and Minnesota has become the latest state to report a case of the measles.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, a 19-month-old Hennepin County child was confirmed to be infected with the virus late last week. It was the first such case to be reported in the state this year, according to MDH.

Nationally, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has reported 129 individual cases and 13 outbreaks have occurred during the first four months of 201, which is the highest number to occur over that period in nearly 20 years.

So how likely is it that an outbreak could occur in one of our local school districts?

Statistically speaking, not very. Data gathered from the Detroit Lakes, Frazee-Vergas and Lake Park-Audubon school districts shows that the overwhelming majority of students in grades K-12 are current on their Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccinations.

“Immunizations (including MMR) are required for enrollment at LP-A unless the parents provide a notarized waiver claiming personal or religious beliefs,” said Lake Park-Audubon Superintendent Dale Hogie.

“We follow the state guidelines, which are that by 7th grade, all students are required to have at least two MMR vaccinations,” as well as a couple of others, says Christine Hall, a health paraprofessional (school nurse) for the Frazee-Vergas School District.

Students must also stay current on their diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP) and varicella (chicken pox) vaccinations as well, she added.

“My job as the school nurse is to make sure the kids have gotten all those done,” Hall said.

If they are not current on their vaccinations, the district does have the option of sending the student home from school, and keeping them there until their immunizations are up to date.

“It’s a state mandated law,” said Sheila Nelson, administrative assistant at LP-A High School, who is also tasked with keeping track of the school’s immunization records.

Parents do, however, have the option of applying for an exemption, for medical, religious or personal reasons.

“Our district has 30 students in grades K-12 that have exemptions on file,” said Detroit Lakes Superintendent Doug Froke —a very small percentage of the district’s currently enrolled student population of 2,850, he added.

At Frazee-Vergas, out of the elementary (K-6) student population of 498 students just nine have filed a refusal for immunization, said Superintendent Terry Karger, while just two high school students out of 399 have signed the medical or conscientious exemption form.

Among Frazee’s 64 home-schooled students, however, the statistics are a bit higher; a total of 16 have exemptions on file, Karger added.

At Lake Park-Audubon, the stats are even more minute. Nelson said that just two students at the high school have exemptions on file — one of them for all immunizations, and one for just certain vaccines, for medical reasons.

LP-A Elementary administrative assistant Barb Jenson said that just like at the high school, there were only two students at the Audubon facility that had exemptions on file —one for medical reasons, and the other a conscientious exemption.

The evidence in favor of parents choosing to keep their children current on their MMR vaccinations is compelling, Froke noted.

He added that according to the CDC, one to three out of every 1,000 children in the U.S. who get measles will die from the disease, “even with the best medical care available.”

For some children, measles can lead to pneumonia, lifelong brain damage, deafness — and even death.

With those statistics in mind, Froke added, “I would say if you’re not vaccinated for measles, you probably should be.”

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454