Minnesota reports third measles case

Minnesota ranks ninth lowest in measles vaccination; meanwhile, hospitalizations from respiratory illnesses are down

A measles vaccine is prepared
A measles vaccine is prepared on Sept. 10, 2019 in Auckland, New Zealand.
Fiona Goodall | Getty Images 2019

The Minnesota Department of Health has confirmed the third measles case in the state since the beginning of the year. The two other cases were reported last week, and all have been in the Twin Cities.

There were zero measles cases in Minnesota in 2023 and 22 cases in 2022. Since 2000, there have been a total of 149 cases in Minnesota, largely driven by several spikes of cases.

While the risk of contracting measles in the U.S. remains very low — it was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000 — the World Health Organization recently noted global cases continue to rise, a trend seen over the last few years. In 2023, there were more than 300,000 measles cases globally, which is an increase of 79 percent from 2022.

Most cases in the U.S. can be traced to exposure in another country. But, paired with decreasing vaccination coverage in the U.S., the global increase in cases heightens the potential for spread here in the U.S.

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The World Health Organization recommends at least a 95 percent vaccination rate to achieve and maintain herd immunity against measles. Vaccine coverage among kindergartners in the U.S. has fallen below that threshold in the last few years to roughly 93 percent, as noted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, the statewide vaccination rate for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) among kindergarteners was 87.7 percent in the 2022-23 school year. That’s down slightly from the 89 percent rate reported by the CDC for Minnesota in 2021-22 — 41st among all states in that school year.

The CDC reports 14 states that year had the recommended minimum of 95 percent vaccination rate among kindergarten children, and 26 states had rates between 90 and 94 percent.

In Hennepin and Ramsey counties, 79 out of the 347 reporting schools had vaccination rates of at least 95 percent among kindergarteners in 2022-23. Another 85 schools had a rate between 90 and 94 percent.

You can look up the MMR vaccination rates in individual Minnesota schools through this lookup tool from WCCO News, or download the data yourself from the health department

Respiratory illnesses down across the board 

Hospitalizations from all three of the tracked respiratory viruses — COVID-19, flu and RSV — are down in the latest week of data from the health department.

COVID-19 hospitalizations have fallen the most dramatically over the past month, now approaching the flu hospitalization rate, which has been up and down over that period. RSV hospitalization rates have steadily declined since their peak in the last weeks of 2023.

COVID-19 hospitalizations have also dropped off more quickly from their winter peak compared to this time last year. So far, this winter’s rates have also followed a seasonal pattern more akin to influenza than we saw last year, when the peak was less obvious. Last year’s pattern was more of a high plateau of rates throughout 2022 before finally declining in early 2023.  

Since Jan. 1 of this year, there have been 231 COVID-19 deaths, according to the health department. Over the same period last year there were 318 deaths, and in 2022 — the peak of the omicron wave — there were 1,271 deaths from January 1 through mid-February.

Wastewater analysis, which has often proven to be a predictor of COVID-19 cases, shows a statewide decrease in COVID-19 virus of 12 percent in the latest update. Only the Nort East region of Minnesota showed an increase (11.3 percent) in COVID-19 in wastewater in the most recent week of data. That’s down, however, from previous weeks — the four-week change there shows a 59.6 percent increase. It does not appear that the increase has translated to remarkably higher hospitalization rates in the area.

Wastewater rates in the study’s other regions dropped between 1.6 percent (South Central) and 22.6 percent (North West) in the most recent week of data.