Four Months & 79 Patients Later, Minnesota Measles Outbreak Is Still a Menace
In late June, the biggest measles outbreak to strike Minnesota since 1990 seemed to be winding down. Today, public health officials announced a new confirmed measles case in the area.
Since the outbreak started in April of this year, public health officials estimate more than 8,000 people were exposed to the measles virus. The newest case brings the total number of victims to 79, and the unidentified white adult is now recuperating at home.
While in the infectious stage of the disease, the Minnesota Department of Health reports the patient, who is unrelated to earlier measles victims, visited public locations in Carver, Ramsey, and Hennepin counties.
The Minnesota Department of Health was first notified of a potential measles case on April 10, 2017. Although considered eradicated in this country, measles outbreaks occur when infected travelers carry the virus into the country. Because measles is extremely contagious, unvaccinated or under-vaccinated children and adults are at high risk.
In this outbreak, the continually rising case count is centering around children in the Somali-American community located in Hennepin County. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in this week's issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) identified the majority of cases to be among young US-born children of Somali descent. Luckily, of the 79 cases reported so far, no fatalities have occurred.
Using identification and isolation, local health officials worked to contain the spread of the infection, while launching public education campaigns about the need for childhood vaccinations.
In approximately 2008, reports suggest anti-vaccination groups began to target the Somali community, trotting out old and disproved theories of links between autism and the combination vaccination for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR). In a report from CNN, Michael Osterholm, a director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota stated: "Between 2000 and roughly 2008, the Somali community in Minnesota actually had some of the highest vaccination rates for 2-year-olds of any population in the state." That changed.
In 2011, only 54% of 2-year-old children in Hennepin County were vaccinated against measles, mumps, and rubella, according to the MMWR. Children should receive their first dose of the MMR vaccine at between 12 and 15 months.
The anti-vaccination advocates arranged for Andrew Wakefield, the now notorious former physician who created what is called "one of the most serious frauds in medical history," to speak at community meetings.
Although solid scientific research has disproved Wakefield's dubious claims linking vaccination and autism, vulnerable groups around the world continue to withhold the vaccination from their children, spreading dangerous diseases in their own and other communities.
No longer winding down, the Minnesota measles outbreak is ongoing for now. Comments Kristen Ehresmann, director of infectious disease for the health department in today's press release:
When you're dealing with a disease that can spread as easily as measles, you need to keep your guard up until the very end of the possible timeframe when people could get sick. This latest case is unfortunate, but we remain optimistic that we're heading in the right direction thanks to the public health measures we've taken in partnership with local public health, the affected individuals and communities.
While the vaccination rate for measles in Minnesota stands at 90%, people who develop a cough, runny nose, rash, and fever are urged to contact their doctor as soon as possible.