One of the largest outbreaks of measles in almost 3 decades has occurred in Minnesota. And the population that has mainly been affected are young children of Somali descent. The authorities believe that these individuals have fallen under the sway of anti-vaccination activists in the US.
Since April 11, 2017, the state has confirmed 44 cases of measles which represents the largest outbreak in the US this year. This is considered to be the largest outbreak since the 1990s when 460 cases were reported. So far, all of the individuals affected in Minnesota are children under the age of 10, except for one adult healthcare worker.
Measles is a serious illness and can result in death without vaccination; it is also a very contagious infection which can spread easily after inhalation of infected aerosolized particles that are generated whenever the infected individual sneezes or coughs. It is also more of a concern because the organism remains viable in the droplets for a long time.
Among the 44 individuals with measles, all but 2 were not vaccinated. The majority of these patients reside in the immigrant community in Hennepin County which is a very densely suburb of Minneapolis and home to many Somali immigrants.
Experts in infectious disease state that many Somali immigrants have a low vaccination rate for mumps, measles and rubella. In fact, for quite some time now, the Somalis have been the target of anti-vaccination groups who have generated significant paranoia and fear about the national vaccine programs.
Somali immigrants had a higher vaccination rate when they first arrived in the early 90s but these rates began to drop a decade later. For some unknown the Somalis began to feel that their children had higher rates of autism. Due to negative propaganda by these anti-vaccination groups, they started to relate autism with vaccination despite the fact that several studies have proven that this particular population of Somalis does not have a higher rate of autism than the rest of the country.
Unfortunately, the anti-vaccine activists have met with some Somali families and convinced them that the vaccine was hazardous to the health of their children.
Healthcare workers believe that it will take some time to contain this outbreak and in the meantime public health officials are trying to educate the Somalis about the importance of vaccination.