ST. PAUL, Minn. – As the legislature is wrapping up final budget provisions before the end of the session, Minnesota Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger is asking lawmakers to add a $5 million emergency fund for fighting outbreaks of infectious diseases including measles, tuberculosis and syphilis.
“In recent months, state and local public health officials have had to respond to a series of infectious disease outbreaks including multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, hundreds of new cases of syphilis, and now, the largest measles outbreak the state has faced in nearly 30 years,” Ehlinger said in a statement.
The current measles outbreak continues to spread through the state. According to Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), there are 63 confirmed cases of measles. The majority of the cases have stayed within Hennepin County, but the disease has spread as far as Crow Wing, Le Sueur, and Ramsey County. Of the 63 confirmed cases, 53 are Somali Minnesotan. Sixty of the 63 cases have been in children.
The commissioner estimates the state has already spent $3 million this year fighting measles, tuberculosis, and syphilis. As the outbreak continues to spread, Ehlinger is worried the state will not be able to quickly fund the outbreak response. The creation of an emergency fund would allow for better flexibility in fighting epidemics.
“Minnesotans rightly expect a rapid and effective response to these threats, but current state funds lack the flexibility needed to deal with emergent disease threats. We cannot continue diverting funding and resources away from other vital public health services to respond to disease outbreaks and threats,” Ehlinger said. “I respectfully request that the legislature create a public health response contingency fund of $5 million to ensure sufficient resources are available for immediate, lifesaving actions to protect Minnesotans from infectious disease outbreaks and other unanticipated public health threats.”
Governor Dayton has expressed support for the emergency fund, and is expected to advocate for its inclusion in final budget proposals.