- The Washington Times - Friday, May 5, 2017

A measles outbreak in Minnesota particularly centered among unvaccinated individuals in Somali-American neighborhoods is spreading outside the community and even infected two people who had originally been vaccinated, state health officials said Thursday.

There are 41 confirmed cases of the disease and health officials believe 2,500 individuals were exposed.

Two of the most recently contracted cases involved people who had received the recommended doses of the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported on Thursday.

One was a healthcare worker who had been exposed to several infected patients, the paper said.

The outbreak has been concentrated in the state’s Somali community, where fear of vaccinations leading to autism has caused many parents not to vaccinate their children against the disease.

The Star-Tribune reported last week that an anti-vaccine organization planned a meeting in a predominately Somali-immigrant community saying that “the epidemic is autism, not measles.”

In mid-April, Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger said that the outbreak was caused by unvaccinated children and “not specific communities.”

“Unfortunately, the Minnesota Somali community has been targeted with misinformation about vaccine risks,” Dr. Ehlinger said in a statement. “We’re partnering with Somali community leaders and health care providers to counteract that misinformation. We want as many Minnesotans as possible to protect themselves and their families by getting vaccinated.”

A vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella has been around since the 1970’s and government officials declared measles eradicated within the U.S. in 2000.

Reported cases and outbreaks in the U.S. can usually be traced back to a contraction of the disease abroad, either in Africa or Europe.

A previous outbreak in Minnesota in 2011 had 26 cases and was traced back to a 30-month-old American of Somali descent that had contracted the disease in Kenya.

Measles is highly contagious and spread through coughing, sneezing or even being in the same room with someone who has the disease.

Symptoms include a high fever, cough, runny nose, watery eyes and is followed by a rash that spreads from the head to the rest of the body. It is a serious disease that often requires hospitalization and can lead to death.

“Once measles begins to spread in unvaccinated populations, it can be very difficult to stop,” Kris Ehresmann, director of infectious disease control for the Minnesota Department of Health, said in a statement. “We would not be surprised if we saw additional cases in other parts of the state where there are clusters of unvaccinated people before this is over.”

Health officials recommend any child 12 months or older to receive the MMR vaccine, a two-dose vaccine that protects against measles, mumps and rubella.

Adults born in 1957 or later who never had the vaccine are also encouraged to receive it.

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