News and Information


May 20, 2019

Measles Trend is Worth Watching

Olmsted County Public Health is currently following a concerning national trend around measles. Over 700 cases of measles have been identified in 23 states so far this year across the U.S., the most cases since the early 90s in this country and it is only May. Last month, two cases were diagnosed in Iowa, just a few hours’ drive from Rochester. While modern air travel always means measles is just a plane ride away, the cases in Iowa bring the reality of this national outbreak closer to home.  

Vaccinations are one of the great public health victories over the last century. Prior to the vaccine era, infectious diseases like diphtheria, smallpox, and polio maimed and killed tens of thousands of people, mostly young children, every year in the U.S. Take polio for example. In 1954, the year before a vaccine became available, this country reported an average of over 16,000 people succumbing to lifelong paralysis due to poliovirus infection with another 2,000 dead. Smallpox used to kill one-third of the people that caught it. Public Health efforts successfully eradicated both of these diseases from the U.S. by 1980. In fact, deaths from vaccine preventable diseases have decreased over 99% in the U.S. since the vaccinations became routine.

Measles is another example of a disease that vaccination has impacted. The U.S. eliminated transmission of measles in 2000, almost 20 years ago. In the 1950s, before vaccine, 3-4 million Americans, mostly children, got the measles every year; about 50,000 were hospitalized, and 400-500 people died every year. So why is the U.S. experiencing a measles outbreak now? 

Unfortunately, a decrease in childhood vaccination across the country is the driving factor. This is based in part on an infamous and discredited study that suggested the MMR vaccine could lead to developmental disorders. This led to the revocation of the license of the physician that coordinated the effort after the study was shown to be fraudulent. Experts have since looked multiple times and have found NO association between autism or other illnesses in children being vaccinated. Most of the current measles cases across the country are in unvaccinated Americans, including about 100 children under a year old that are usually too young for the vaccine.  

The alarming trend of reduced vaccination in children puts the unvaccinated and other high-risk individuals in significant peril. In addition to protecting your own children from the consequences of illness, vaccination programs protect all of us. When you vaccinate your family, you not only protect them, but you also shield infants that are too young, immune compromised people, and those that can’t take vaccine due to medical reasons. Let’s hypothetically say a case of measles wanders through a store here in Rochester. If everyone else in that store is vaccinated, the virus has nowhere to go and therefore can’t spread into our community. This measles case then leaves the store without putting anyone else at risk. This idea is called “herd immunity” and it is what protects communities from outbreaks. 

The key is working together to make sure our communities are well vaccinated before measles finds its way into our county. The current trend across the country is alarming, but we can reduce this threat locally. Have a discussion with your medical provider about measles and make sure you understand your immune status. If you are delaying vaccination, consider moving the MMR vaccine to the top of the list due to the current situation. It takes a little effort from all of us to prevent a public health emergency with the potential for severe impacts to our most vulnerable residents. Given the choice to live in the pre- or post-vaccine era, I, for one, will take the latter.  

Editorial by Graham Briggs, printed in Post Bulletin


April 16, 2019

2019 Public Health Champion Award: Rochester Farmers Markets

Congratulations to the Rochester Farmers Markets on being awarded the Public Health Champion Award! This organization provides a year-round opportunity for people to obtain healthy produce, meats and other agricultural products directly from the growers and producers who live and farm within 50 miles of Rochester, Mn.  The Winter Market, is held indoors at Graham Park twice a month January through April. The Summer Market, is held outdoors in downtown Rochester and is open every Saturday May through October.

The Summer Market is home to a vibrant agricultural marketplace that provides local access to quality farm products and strengthens the ties between the family farm and the community. The Market has something for everyone: fresh produce, dairy and eggs, flowers and plants, pasture-raised meats, baked goods, specialty products, crafts, music, nutrition and health education, chef demonstrations, and community resource information.

Consumers can obtain the freshest possible produce, meats, breads, and more and get to know the farmers who produced it. Farmers can sell directly without the "middleman".  Farmers and customers often become friends, leading to people volunteering at a farm or even becoming farmers themselves. The farmers support each other - as customers, sharing knowledge, and promoting each other. They also supply fresh, local ingredients to many area chefs who shop the market for local, seasonal ingredients. In 2018, Market vendors donated over 21,000 lb. of produce to the Channel One food shelf.  They also launched "Market For All," to celebrate diversity and hosted four themed events with community partners that included chef demonstrations, healthy international recipes, outreach and children's activities. The Market proudly offers and accepts Market Bucks for SNAP recipients and Farmers Market Nutrition Program vouchers for seniors and WIC participants.


​April 12, 2019

Food Safety During/After Power Outages

Due to the latest storm system sweeping through the area, many households lost power and continue to be without power today. Knowing how to determine if food is safe and how to keep food safe during extended power outages will help minimize the potential loss of food and reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Friends and neighbors are encouraged to check on each other to assure they are safe during this weather event.

When the Power Goes Out . . .

  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain cold temperatures

    • The refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened

    • A full freezer will keep the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full).

  • Do not eat refrigerated, perishable foods, such as meat, poultry, milk, eggs, and deli Items, after 4 hours without power

  • If your power outage will continue during cold weather, use a clean, secure cooler or tote to store your perishable food items outside.  Monitor temperatures to keep food at 40 F or lower.

  • Never use a generator, fuel-powered tools, gas or charcoal grill in the house, garage, in enclosed areas, or near windows, doors, vents, window air conditioners, and other openings.

Once Power is Restored . . .

You'll need to determine the safety of your food. Here's how:

  • If an appliance thermometer was kept in the freezer, check the temperature when the power comes back on. If the freezer thermometer reads 40°F or below, the food is safe and may be refrozen.

  • If a thermometer has not been kept in the freezer, check each package of food to determine its safety. You can't rely on appearance or odor. If the food still contains ice crystals or is 40 °F or below, it is safe to refreeze or cook.

  • Refrigerated food should be safe as long as the power was out for no more than 4 hours and the refrigerator door was kept shut. Discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs or leftovers) that has been above 40°F for two hours or more.

Keep in mind that perishable food such as meat, poultry, seafood, milk, and eggs that are not kept adequately refrigerated or frozen may cause illness if consumed, even when they are thoroughly cooked.​


April 11, 2019

Community Listening Sessions Scheduled

​Five community listening sessions will be held throughout the county designed to hear directly from residents about successes and challenges in their neighborhoods and communities related to our collective health, health care services and access to care. Feedback from the listening sessions will help community leaders and organizations determine future efforts aimed at improving the health status of our residents. The same questions are asked at each session and are hosted by volunteer facilitators and notetakers. Sessions are open to residents 18 years and older and no registration is needed. 

Date                Time                          Location

April 15        6:00 – 7:30 PM      Eyota American Legion

April 23        6:00 – 7:30 PM      Eagles Club, Rochester

             *focused on Veterans and their families

April 25        7:00 – 8:30 PM      125 LIVE 
              *focused on Seniors, in partnership
                 with the City for Good and AARP

April 29        6:00 – 7:30 PM      Chatfield Public Library

April 30        6:00 – 7:30 PM      Stewartville Civic Center

​The listening sessions are a part of a comprehensive Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA), conducted every three years by Olmsted County Public Health Services, Mayo Clinic, Olmsted Medical Center and other partnering organizations.  Information gathered from these sessions will be included in the 2019 CHNA document to be released this October.


​April 2, 2019

Minimum Age to Purchase Tobacco Products Increases

 On Tuesday, April 2, 2019 the Olmsted County Board of Commissioners passed a change to the current Tobacco Sales and Youth ordinance for the county, 4 – 3. Olmsted County joins 30 other Minnesota communities in raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and vaping devices, to 21.  This change goes into effect on July 1, 2019 and will further protect our youth from the ill effects of tobacco and nicotine addiction.

 The Olmsted County Board of Commissioners acts as the County Board of Health and responsible for regulating actual or potential threats to the public's health. "As the Board of Health for the county, we have the responsibility to enact regulations designed to protect the health of our citizens," said Stephanie Podulke, Olmsted County Board Commissioner. "The current push by tobacco and vaping companies to entice youth to start nicotine dependency and/or tobacco use is unconscionable. By targeting children well before their brains have reached maturity and understand the consequences of choices they are making, these companies create a lifetime market for their products. Once addicted, our children then face a life-time of struggles with nicotine dependency" she said.

"This is a positive step in the right direction towards a safer, healthier community," says Graham Briggs, Director of Olmsted County Public Health Services. "I am very proud of our county commissioners for their strength and determination in taking on an issue that at times has been controversial. I applaud their leadership and dedication to preserving and protecting the health of our youth."


​March 14, 2019

Public Health Recommends Strengthening Tobacco​ Ordinance

Olmsted County Public Health Services recently introduced proposed changes to the county’s current Tobacco Sales and Youth ordinance that would raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, from 18 to 21 in Olmsted County. This measure is supported by the U.S. Surgeon General, who recently declared youth e-cigarette use an epidemic, due in part to the record climb in e-cigarette use among our youth, known as vaping. 

“In Olmsted County tobacco kills over 150 residents and costs the county more than $85 million dollars every year. Growing evidence indicates that the younger you are when you start using nicotine the more likely you are to be addicted for the rest of your life.” says Graham Briggs, Director of Olmsted County Public Health Services. “After decades of fighting to reduce harm from tobacco, a new threat is emerging in our youth and Olmsted is not exempt. We have a crisis developing in our schools with vaping and it is creating an entirely new generation of people addicted to nicotine. A change in the age for tobacco access is our best option to put a dent in this concerning trend.”  

The Olmsted County Board of Commissioners will conduct a public hearing to consider the proposed revisions on:

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

9:00 a.m.

Government Center Council/Board Chambers

151 4th Street SE

Rochester, MN 55904

​​Over the last year, Public Health staff, in partnership with multiple local organizations, have conducted extensive research on local tobacco use and potential impacts of this change locally. Discussions with healthcare providers, teachers, administrators, parents, youth and civic organizations confirm that Olmsted County is seeing an unprecedented increase in youth tobacco usage. ​


​​January 4, 2019

Now Accepting Nominations for the
2019 Public Health Champion Award

The Public Health Champion Award is an annual award that recognizes an individual, group, program or partnership whose service and activities have significantly contributed to improving our collective health. 

We may not always know all the great things happening in our communities that make Olmsted County a healthier place to live, learn, work and play. You can help us by nominating a Champion. The application is simple and easy to complete electronically. All nominations are due on or before February 20, 2019.

Champion Award Nomination Form

If you have questions, please contact Kari Etrheim at or call 507 328-7424