Recently, a measle outbreak has been sickening dozens of Somali-Americans in Minnesota, nearly all of them were children. They can be traced to anti-vaccination campaigns that targeted Somali-Americans and suggested that vaccines are linked to autism. As of Friday, May 12, the Minnesota Department of Health announced that it had been confirmed of 54 measles cases, 51 of those being children of 17 and younger. The majority of the infected were unvaccinated.
The number of cases was particularly high compared to the number of measles cases in Minnesota over the previous years. A total of 56 cases that were reported between 1997 and 2016.
Measles is very contagious. It was concluded that if one person was sick, there was a 90 percent chance that someone unvaccinated and physically near an infected person would also get sick. While the current outbreak is spreading in days, its origins can be traced back to 2008.
In 2008, it was reported that Somali-American children were entering special education services in school districts more than children in other groups. This caught the attention of anti-vaccine groups who have incorrectly linked immunization to autism.
“Anti-vaccine activists promptly flooded Minnesota’s Somali-Americans communities with misinformation about links between developmental difficulties in children and vaccination,” said Kristen Ehresmann, director of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Prevention and Control at MDH.
Ehresmann also states, “They have been very aggressive in taking advantage of concerns about autism in this community.”
In 2016, it was declared that measles has been eliminated from the Americas. However, this only meant that cases no longer originated in the Americas. This means that measles could still appear in the U.S if they were imported.
Measles outbreaks are also a growing source of unease in Europe, especially in areas where immunization coverage is low. More than 500 cases emerged in the European region in January 2017, and the disease continues to spread. With steady progress of the decline in measles over the past two years, it is a concern that measles cases are more frequent in Europe.
Be careful and make sure that vaccinations have been given to close ones.