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Could measles reach Dakota County?

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Sixty-eight cases of measles have been confirmed in four counties in Minnesota. The Minnesota Department of Health has not found any cases in Dakota County, but officials say the virus could spread east depending on several factors.

Hennepin, Ramsey, Crow Wing and Le Sueur counties all have recorded cases of the disease — which symptoms are a rash, fever and cough, running nose or watering eyes. Patients can experience serious complications such as pneumonia or encephalitis. There is currently no treatment for measles beyond bed rest, fluids and control of the fever.

Health Department spokesman Doug Schultz said any continued spread of the virus depends on how well people are vaccinated, whether they have been in contact with someone carrying the virus, travels to an infected area, or someone from the infected area travels to them. Especially, he said, if there are "pockets of unvaccinated day cares or schools."

The Health Department has recorded about 96 percent of kindergarteners in Dakota County with the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccination, and nearly 97 percent of kindergartners enrolled in Hastings public schools have been immunized. That accounts for about 30 kindergartners in the school district without the MMR vaccination for medical reasons, non-medical exemptions or without receiving both shots by kindergarten as is recommended.

The average statewide is 93 percent immunized.

About 93, 91, 95 and 96 percent of kindergarteners in the counties that currently have case of measles — Hennepin, Ramsey, Crow Wing and Le Sueur — are vaccinated.

Schultz said the Health Department is encouraging people to get their children the second round of the MMR immunization as soon as possible, and not wait for the 4- to 6-year-old range previously suggested. The second round can be administered as soon as 28 days after the first shot.

The first round is suggested when a child is 12-15 months old.

Adults generally are not at risk. Schultz said adults generally have either had measles or the vaccination.

The three adults who did contract the virus were "working in intense exposure situations."