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For 90 years measles ravaged through the United States with no preventable cure. However, thanks to a vaccine that was developed in 1968, measles was declared to be eliminated from America in 2002, as reported by the Center for Disease Control.
Now, 17 years later, the disease is back with a vengeance and one state is taking a major hit. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, in 2017, there have been 75 cases of measles concentrated in only four counties of Minnesota:
- 66 in Hennepin County
- 3 in Ramsey County
- 4 in Crow Wing County
- 2 in Le Sueur County
Seventy-two of the victims are under 17 years old.
This year, Minnesota has had more cases than the whole of the United States combined and the CDC is blaming it all one one thing ... vaccinations.
As reported by the state's health department, 92 percent of the people who contracted the disease were confirmed to be unvaccinated.
Kristen Ehresmann, director of the Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Prevention, and Control Division at the state's Department of Health, told CNN, “Many of the cases could have been prevented if people had gotten vaccinated.”
She would prefer to invest funds in preventing measles than fighting it and explained that the disease can cause permanent damage to the brain and lungs.
Ehresmann noted that there really is no plan b to the vaccine and said:
“There is no antiviral medicine against measles. All we can do is provide IV fluids, oxygen and support and hope they survive.”
She urged people to “not listen to false messages from anti-vaccine groups,” and reiterated that not vaccinating your child is “to put your child at risk.”
Measles is highly contagious because to be exposed to the disease, all you have to do is breath the same air as someone who already has it.
The outbreak is believed to have started in a Somali community about a decade ago when members of the community felt Somali children were more prone to autism than white children.
Since then, Ehresmann noted that vaccine rates have plummeted within the Somali community, and the Minnesota health department reported, 84 percent of people who contracted measles were of Somali ethnicity.
Although Ehresmann reiterated catching measles “has nothing to do with being Somali,” and everything to do with being unvaccinated.
Challenges seem rife with this outbreak and the timing couldn't have been worse. Ramadan will conclude on June 24 with a large feast, which has the potential to be a prime breeding ground for spreading the virus.
As part of a continual prevention program, Ehresmann reached out to the mosques and was reassured by imams that they will propagate the message that if you have measles, you should isolate yourself.