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article imageMinnesota measles cases jumps to 73, exposing over 8,000 to virus

By Karen Graham     Jun 5, 2017 in Health
Right now, there are more measles cases in Minnesota than there were in all of the United States in 2016. This was caused by anti-vaxxers spreading a debunked rumor through the state's large Somali-American community that the vaccine causes autism.
In early May, Digital Journal reported Minnesota Health Department officials were scrambling to contain a measles outbreak that had mainly affected Somali-American children. At that time, 44 cases of the highly contagious disease had been identified, mostly in Hennepin County.
According to The Verge, Kristen Ehresmann, the director of the Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Prevention, and Control Division at Minnesota’s Department of Health said more than 8,000 people, mostly in schools and hospitals have been exposed to the virus.
Ehresmann pointed out that when fewer people are vaccinated, they put large numbers of the community at risk, particularly those who are too young or sick, adding that “many of the cases could have been prevented if people had gotten vaccinated."
Measles is a highly contagious disease that can be fatal. Symptoms usually start with a fever, cough, runny nose, and watery eyes. Then a rash develops that usually spreads from the head to the rest of the body. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), two doses of the vaccine are about 97 percent effective in preventing the disease.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that multiple studies in recent years have sh...
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that multiple studies in recent years have shown no link between receiving vaccines and developing autism
JOE RAEDLE, Getty/AFP/File
As Digital Journal noted in May, the upsurge in measles cases was primarily limited to the large Somali-American community - caused by a concerted effort by anti-vaccine groups showing up at community health meetings and distributing pamphlets claiming the measles vaccine caused autism, an unfounded myth that has been proven to be false.
Imams and health officials can work together to stop the outbreak
As it turns out, almost half of Somali-American children in Minnesota have not been vaccinated for measles. Adding to concerns - The Holy Month of Ramadan has three more weeks to go, with numerous gatherings and prayers still to come. Health officials and Muslim religious leaders are facing the challenge of getting through Ramadan without the measles outbreak spreading further.
Elham Ashkar, who works on community outreach for Children's Minnesota hospitals and clinics told NPR News that "One of the imams, and I'm paraphrasing, he said, 'If you don't immunize, it's like killing the Muslim children.' I think that's such strong messaging."
Imams, in their position as religious leaders, can spread the word on the dangers of not vaccinating their followers' children. "They are a person who can take scripture, Islamic principles and can also relate that back to how people make health decisions," said Ashkar.
More about Minnesota, Measles outbreak, somali community, Muslim leaders, autism myth
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