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Health officials mark end of measles outbreak in Minnesota

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota health officials are marking the end of the state's largest measles outbreak in decades.

CBS Minnesota reports that if no new cases of measles linked to the 2017 outbreak are identified by Friday, Minnesota health officials will declare the outbreak officially over, since it will have been 42 days -- double the illness's incubation period -- since the last known infection.

The measles outbreak was the largest in Minnesota since 1990 and required extensive collaboration among public health and community partners to stop it.

As of mid-July, 79 cases were confirmed in Minnesota. Nearly everyone infected was unvaccinated.

Many of those who got sick were in the state's large Somali-American community, where many parents avoid the vaccine because of unfounded fears that it causes autism, which doctors say is not true.

The measles virus travels through the air where it can live for up to two hours, making it even more contagious than the flu. The combined measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine protects against the illness.

In 2014, almost 90 percent of 2-year-old Minnesota children were vaccinated against measles, but in the Somali community, that number plummeted to about 40 percent.

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Comparison of MMR vaccination rates in children at age 24 months CBS News

People who get sick with measles can suffer serious complications.

"One in a thousand children who get measles will have encephalitis or infection in the brain. They can have permanent brain damage. They can have blindness or deafness, and so we wouldn't vaccinate if this was just a rash or illness -- this is a very serious disease," Patsy Stinchfield of the Children's Minnesota Hospital said.

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