The spread of measles in Minnesota has led health officials in north-central Iowa to warn residents to make sure immunizations are up to date for themselves and their children.

Jeni Stiles, at the Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health in Mason City, says measles can lead to a number of complications. It can lead to pneumonia, swelling of the brain and death.

“It is important to know that it can lead to those things,” Stiles says. “There isn’t necessarily a treatment. It can lead to hospitalization. We want to get people protected so people don’t become sick and don’t end up with complications from measles.” Stiles says measles is one of the most contagious diseases on the planet as it’s spread through tiny respiratory droplets.

She says when someone infected with measles talks, coughs or sneezes, those droplets go into the air. “It can hang out in the air, it can hang out on surfaces, anything like that for up to two hours,” Stiles says. “Somebody can be in the room and be sick with measles and leave the room and two hours later, you can come into that room and ingest the droplets and become sick with measles.” Stiles says children and some adults may not have been vaccinated for measles.

If you were born after 1957, you need to make sure you’ve been vaccinated twice unless you’ve already had the measles. Stiles says if you don’t have a copy of your medical records, there are several options to find out what immunizations you’ve received. The best bet is calling your doctor’s office or your local health department. At least 50 measles cases have been reported in Minnesota as of last Friday, with the majority of those cases occurring in unvaccinated children.

(By Bob Fisher, KRIB, Mason City)