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Health Officials Investigate Measles Outbreak In Hennepin Co.

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Minnesota health officials say they are investigating an outbreak of measles in Hennepin County.

Hennepin County health officials say they're working around the clock to try to reach anyone who could be impacted by the ongoing Measles outbreak.

Officials say as of April 17, there are now nine cases of measles in the county – all unvaccinated children ages 1 through 4 years.

Eight of the confirmed cases are Somali Minnesotans. The health department says that community has been targeted with misinformation about vaccine risks, so it's working to alert families to the outbreak.

Hennepin County Public Health Epidemiology Manager Dave Johnson says all the cases in Minnesota's recent history have originated from countries where measles is more common.

"What likely happened here is that someone came from abroad who was unvaccinated and exposed to measles and then brought that back to the United States," Johnson said.

Johnson says that in many communities, misinformation about vaccines and autism has led to lower vaccinations rates.

"The overwhelming scientific evidence shows us there is no link between Autism and the measles vaccine, so we want that to be very clear about that," Johnson said.

Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Jaylani Hussein says the Somali Minnesotan community has been dealing with higher rates of autism in children for years.

"We are concerned about the number of Autistic children in the Somali community so there has been some fears around that and rumors about the effects of vaccination," Hussein said.

A University of Minnesota report shows that in 2010, about one in 32 Somali children, ages 7 to 9, was identified as having autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in Minneapolis. A rate similar to white children, but higher than other races. No research has yet shown why.

The county says when immigrants come into the country to stay, they are required to get certain vaccinations, including for measles.

Here in Minnesota, the parent of any baby born in the United States has the right to object to childhood vaccinations for non-medical reasons. The measles virus is highly contagious. Symptoms include fever and a rash.

Officials say the best way to protect yourself and children is to make sure everyone has been vaccinated with the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

The last Measles outbreak in Hennepin County was in 2011. It can take up to 21 days from exposure for symptoms of measles to appear.

Therefore, the county says the end of this outbreak will likely be 21 days after officials have seen no new cases reported. There were no new cases reported on Tuesday.


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