The measles outbreak in Minnesota continues to rear its ugly head and the health department is shelling out plenty of money to combat the disease.
On Wednesday, May 10, the state's Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger shared that the state was grappling with the biggest measles outbreak in the last three decades.
This measles outbreak was stretching the funds of the Minnesota Department of Health and it needed $5 million to combat infectious diseases. Ehlinger requested the state legislature for this contingency fund to help counter measles, syphilis, and Zika in Minnesota.
Minnesota Measles Outbreak: A Costly Affair
In the past four weeks, 51 cases of measles have been confirmed in Minnesota. These cases are primarily in the Hennepin County and impact kids of the Minnesota-Somali community.
A measles outbreak is costly because each patient needs a thorough follow-up. Measles is also extremely infectious and the virus can linger in the environment for nearly two hours even if the infected individual is not in the vicinity.
Roughly 90 percent individuals are at a risk of getting measles if they are unvaccinated and get exposed to the virus. This basically means that local and state health officials have a gargantuan task ahead of them to trace possibly infected people when they come across one confirmed measles case.
The Minnesota Health Department shared that nearly 47 people infected with measles were unvaccinated. One individual had a single dose out of the recommended two doses. Only two individuals had taken both the recommended doses.
The Minnesota Health Department's infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann revealed that it had to deploy 70 staff who were "working on this response." Moreover, Hennepin County and the state had conducted checks on roughly 8,000 potential measles exposure cases.
She also revealed that the expenditure in the first three weeks of the outbreak was $207,000.
"Not only are there health costs for treating children. There are economic costs for their families, and there are costs to the public health system," Ehresmann told NBC News.
Why Does The Minnesota Health Department Need $5 Million?
Ehlinger shared that the state currently does not have sufficient funds to counter the measles outbreak effectively. While it is the duty of the Minnesota Health Department to respond to the threats swiftly, it cannot continuously divert resources and funds from other important health services and channel its focus on "disease outbreaks and threats."
The Health Commissioner revealed that the local and state "response costs" for syphilis, measles, and tuberculosis in H1 2017 was already touching $3 million
"I respectfully request that the legislature create a public health response contingency fund of $5 million to ensure sufficient resources are available for immediate, life-saving actions to protect Minnesotans from infectious disease outbreaks and other unanticipated public health threats," Ehlinger noted.
He also shared that he had the support of Governor Dayton for the proposal for the emergency fund's allocation. The Minnesota Health Commissioner added that the two would be pushing for "its inclusion in any final legislative budget agreement."
Ehlinger revealed that the department's funds were also stretched as it had to screen travelers and pregnant women for Zika virus. Moreover, the resources of the local and state health departments are stretched.