Unfounded Autism Fears Are Fueling Minnesota's Measles Outbreak

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Somali-Americans are fighting against unfounded fears and misinformation:

Health officials in Minnesota have been scrambling to contain a measles outbreak that has sickened primarily Somali-American children in the state. So far health officials have identified 34 cases, still mostly in Hennepin County, and they're worried there will be more.

In Minnesota, the vast majority of kids under two get vaccinated against measles. But state health officials say most Somali-American 2-year-olds have not had the vaccine — about six out of ten. As the outbreak spreads, that statistic worries health officials, including Michael Osterholm, who directs the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.

"It is a highly concentrated number of unvaccinated people," he says. "It is a potential kind of gas-and-match situation."

Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease that causes a rash and fever. It can be deadly, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says two doses of vaccination are about 97 percent effective in heading off the disease.

The Minnesota Department of Health says the outbreak began in Hennepin County, home to Minneapolis and the heart of the nation's Somali-American community.

Somali-American leaders here are in firm agreement with the Minnesota health department in trying to knock down the pseudoscience behind the unfounded claims that getting vaccinated can lead to autism. But anti-vaccine groups have been quick to fan fears, even as the outbreak spreads.

You can read the rest at NPR.

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