Health officials work to stop measles outbreak from spreading across state lines

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - The number of confirmed measles cases in Minnesota has reached 60. According to state health officials, 57 of those infected were unvaccinated.
Across the state line, South Dakota health officials are doing everything they can to stop the disease from spreading to the Mount Rushmore State.
Measles is highly contagious, but according to health officials the vaccine for it is 98% effective.
Doctors say it takes two doses to be immune to measles for life.

South Dakota city and state health officials are working together to give measles prevention a shot in the arm by making sure people's vaccines are up to date.
“Getting the measles itself can actually lead to death. In some cases, kids can die from it,” Quick Health Urgent Care’s family nurse practitioner, Tracy Salameh said.

The harsh reality of the measles virus should be all but forgotten since vaccines began to eradicate the virus.

“People who don't have appropriate immunity, if they're exposed they have about a 90% chance of becoming infected,” Salameh said.

But this new outbreak in Minnesota serves as a dose of reality.
South Dakota's state epidemiologist, Lon Kightliner, says measles is more contagious than the flu.

“Measles is one of the most infectious viruses that we have,” Kightlinger stated.

That's because it's an airborne virus.

“If they cough or sneeze that area can remain infectious for possible up to a few hours after that person has left,” Salameh explained.

“It is especially airborne, it can just come in tiny particles and the nature of the virus is it can withstand drying out,” Kightlinger said.

On top of being able to live in the air much longer than other viruses, people who have the disease are contagious for a considerably long amount of time.

“They are infectious about five days before they get the rash and then four days after the rash is gone,” Salameh stated.

That's why health officials are watching the spread in Minnesota closely.

“I think that there is a reality that we’re very transportation oriented anymore. We're constantly on the move as communities and people are going back and forth,” City of Sioux Falls public health manager Sandy Frentz said.

“There's a good possibility that South Dakotans could be exposed to measles,” Kightlinger pointed out.

So they say creating immunity is key.

“If your children are at that 12 month or four years of age, get them in and get them vaccinated. You don't need to wait, and given the fact that there’s an outbreak in the surrounding communities, we would like people to take advantage of getting people vaccinated,” Frentz said.
South Dakota health officials have sent an alert across the state, asking doctors to be on the lookout for measles symptoms and encourage patients to be aware of their family's vaccine schedule.
The last measles outbreak in South Dakota happened in the Mitchell area in 2015.
That outbreak was also linked to unvaccinated patients.
Before that, a measles case hadn't been confirmed in the state since the late 1990's.