St. Paul, MN (KROC-AM News) - A growing measles outbreak in the Twin Cities has prompted the issuance of a statewide advisory by the Minnesota Department of Health.

There are now 20 confirmed cases of the measles among children of Somali descent in Hennepin County. The health department is recommending parents and doctors throughout the state to watch for potential cases of illness and to make sure as many children as possible are immunized against the infection.

The advisory states that all children 12 months and older who have not received the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine should be vaccinated now. Also, any unvaccinated adult who has never had the measles is urged to get the MMR shot.

Officials say all Somali Minnesota children in Minnesota who have previously received their first dose of the vaccine should get the second dose now. That second dose is normally administered when a child is 4 to 6 years old, but implementing a special vaccine schedule is often recommended during outbreaks.

“This is about unvaccinated children, not specific communities,” Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger said. “There are people of all backgrounds around the state who have chosen not to protect themselves or their children. Often that decision is based on good intentions and inaccurate information. It’s the responsibility of all of us who care about the health of Minnesota children to make sure people have accurate information and take action to protect their families and their communities.”

The symptoms of the disease include a high fever, coughing, runny nose and watery eyes that is followed by a rash that spreads from the head to the rest of the body. It is very contagious and just being in the same room as a person with the measles can spread the infection. The Health Department also notes the measles is a serious disease that lead to hospitalizations and even death.

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