State health officials have identified a third case of measles in a child who brought the disease back from overseas, prompting them to encourage parents to get their children measles shots before visiting other countries.

The newest case, the third since early August, was identified late last week by the Minnesota Department of Health. It struck a 24-month-old child recently back from a trip to the Middle East.

The child, who lives in Ramsey County but was not otherwise identified, was partly vaccinated for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) but lacked the full protection provided by the recommended dose of two shots.

Local public health staff, as well as clinic and hospital staff where the child was treated, are notifying people who may have been exposed when the child was infectious between Sept. 6 and 14.

The other cases, which involved travel to Africa by unvaccinated children, are not related and did not touch off a wider outbreak.

Measles is surging in many world regions where, unlike the United States, it continues to circulate freely.

Although most Americans are vaccinated, people without vaccine protection or natural immunity are susceptible to the highly contagious disease.

"Measles, like a number of other vaccine-preventable diseases, is just a plane ride away," said Kris Ehresmann, director of infectious disease for the Health Department. "That's why it's so important for both adults and children to be up-to-date on the recommended vaccines before they travel."

The risk also extends to those in the United States who come in contact with someone who's been infected by measles in another country. That is what sparked last year's outbreak in Minnesota, which sickened 75.

"Keeping vaccination rates high is the best way to protect our communities," Ehresmann said.

Children should receive two doses of MMR vaccine — the first at 12 to 15 months, the second at 4 to 6 years. Children 6 to 12 months should get an early dose of MMR vaccine if they are traveling to a country where measles is common.

Glenn Howatt • 612-673-7192