Measles Outbreak Sickens Dozens of Minnesota Somalis | NBC Bay Area
National & International News
The day’s top national and international news

Measles Outbreak Sickens Dozens of Minnesota Somalis

Medical professionals and state health officials are working to contain the virus

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    Measles Outbreak Sickens Dozens of Minnesota Somalis
    AP
    In this Tuesday, May 2, 2017, photo, 15-month-old August Goepferd received the measles, mumps and rubella booster shot at a clinic at Children's Minnesota in Minneapolis. August sat on the lap of his mom, Dr. Angela Geopferd, as registered nurse Kim Flaata administered the shot. A measles outbreak in Minnesota has sickened more than 30 children, mostly in the state's large Somali community, which has a low immunization rate.

    An outbreak of measles in Minnesota has sickened more than 30 children in recent weeks, primarily in the state's large Somali-American community, where many parents avoid the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine because of unfounded fears that it causes autism.

    Somalis are just the latest example of a tight-knit community in which the highly contagious disease has gained a foothold in the U.S. in recent years.

    Medical professionals and state health officials are working to contain the virus, but they expect more measles cases in coming weeks. A look at the situation:

    MEASLES OUTBREAK

    Capitol Police Agent Injured in Shooting Throws First Pitch

    [NATL] Capitol Police Agent Injured in Shooting Throws First Pitch

    Crystal Griner, the Capitol Police agent who was wounded during the shooting at a Congressional Republicans softball practice earlier this month, threw out the first pitch at a Congressional Women's Softball benefit game.

    (Published Thursday, June 22, 2017)

    As of Wednesday, 34 measles cases were confirmed in Minnesota. It's the largest outbreak in the state since 1990, when 460 people contracted measles and three died.

    Nearly everyone infected is unvaccinated, and all but a few are of Somali descent. So far, 11 children have been hospitalized.

    The source of the outbreak is unknown, said Kris Ehresmann, infectious disease director with the state Department of Health. But since measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000, outbreaks in the U.S. are typically caused when international travelers are infected overseas and bring the virus home.

    Deer Caught Duking It Out on Camera

    [NATL] Deer Caught Duking It Out on Camera

    Bring it on! Two deer were caught in an impromptu boxing match, caught on cam by a Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officer.  (Video Credit: TWRA)

    (Published 3 hours ago)

    Nine other states have seen measles cases so far this year, but none has reported an outbreak of Minnesota's magnitude, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

    WHY SOMALIS?

    Somali children are getting sick because the community has a low rate of immunization for measles, mumps and rubella, Ehresmann said. Unvaccinated children from other communities are also at risk.

    According to the Health Department, 42 percent of Minnesota-born Somali toddlers had received the MMR vaccine as of 2017 — but the community's immunization rate hasn't always been that low.

    In 2004, 92 percent of Somali toddlers had the MMR vaccine. The community's immunization rate fell sharply to 70 percent in 2008 amid a perception that autism was becoming more common among Somali children.

    A University of Minnesota study that examined 7- to 9-year-olds in Minneapolis in 2010 found no statistical difference between the rate of autism among Somali children and white children, Ehresmann said.

    Airport Officer Stabbed

    [NATL] Airport Officer Stabbed

    A man stabbed an airport police officer Wednesday morning at Bishop International Airport in Flint, Michigan. The man is in custody and being questioned by the FBI. The airport officer was in stable condition. The FBI has said it is too early to determine if this incident is a terrorist act.

    (Published Wednesday, June 21, 2017)

    OPTING OUT

    Minnesota law requires that a child be vaccinated before enrolling in child care, early education or school. But it also allows exemptions for medical reasons or "conscientiously held beliefs."

    A 2014 study by the American Board of Family Medicine found 35 percent of Somali parents surveyed believed the measles vaccine causes autism, compared with 8 percent of non-Somalis.

    Aid Worker Rescues Mosul Child From ISIS Gunfire

    [NATL] Aid Worker Rescues Mosul Child From ISIS Gunfire in Dramatic Footage

    Warning: Video may disturb some viewers.

    In dramatic footage provided by volunteer aid group Free Burma Rangers, Dave Eubank is seen rescuing a young child from ISIS gunfire in Mosul, Iraq. The rescue followed a surge by ISIS on June 2, 2017. (Video courtesy Free Burma Rangers)

    (Published Thursday, June 22, 2017)

    Research that links the vaccine to autism has been widely discredited. But Anab Gulaid, a University of Minnesota researcher who worked on the autism study, said autism is often diagnosed in children around the same age as they receive their measles vaccine, so some fears persist.

    "It's an emotional issue for people," she said.

    Other communities with low vaccination rates have also been affected by measles in recent years. Nearly 20 people in the Orthodox Jewish community in Los Angeles were sickened by measles in December. Fifty-eight were sickened in 2013 when the measles swept through Orthodox Jewish communities in New York.

    Milwaukee Cop Found Not Guilty In Shooting That Sparked Riots

    [NATL] Milwaukee Cop Found Not Guilty In Shooting That Sparked Riots

    Jurors found former Milwaukee police officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown not guilty of first-degree reckless homicide on Wednesday, June 21, 2017. Heaggan-Brown fatally shot Sylville Smith after a traffic stop and a short pursuit. Smith was carrying a gun when Heaggan-Brown opened fire. Smith's family plans to sue Heaggan-Brown and the city of Milwaukee.

    (Published Wednesday, June 21, 2017)

    In Ohio, 360 people got the measles in 2014 after unvaccinated Amish travelers visited the Philippines and brought the disease home.

    Minnesota health officials say they'd like to see at least 95 percent of the population immunized to protect everyone from measles, a highly contagious disease that can cause respiratory problems, brain swelling, or death.

    COMMUNITY FEARS

    Mother, Aunt Elephants Save Baby From Drowning

    [DFW-NATL] Watch: Mother, Aunt Elephants Save Baby From Drowning

    A baby elephant was saved from drowning by a group of its family members at a South Korean Zoo. In a video recorded by the Seoul Grand Park Zoo, a baby elephant named Hope tried to drink from a pond, but somehow lost its balance and fell in. The calf's mother and aunt came to the rescue, first trying to reach it with their trunks, then going in the water and holding the scared calf up. They eventually brought the calf back to land. A third adult elephant was seen pacing back and forth in a separate enclosure, appearing alarmed by the situation.

    (Published Wednesday, June 21, 2017)

    Dozens of Somali parents attended a recent meeting organized by groups that believe there's a link between vaccines and autism. Some in attendance said they would rather face measles, or a child's death, than a lifetime of autism.

    Patti Carroll, with the Vaccine Safety Council of Minnesota, said the goal was to empower parents.

    "We did a presentation that helped the Somalis put the measles and the MMR vaccine into perspective," Carroll said. "It's their right to say no."

    Sophia Mohamed, a New Brighton mother of two who believes her 16-year-old son got autism after receiving the MMR vaccine as a toddler, said officials need to listen to parents like her.

    "We are not against the vaccine, but we want a safe vaccine," Mohamed said. "We have a choice ... I don't need any researcher to tell me. I know. I saw the results."

    MEDICAL COMMUNITY ON ALERT

    Released Dashcam Video Shows Philando Castile Shooting

    [NATL] Released Dashcam Video Shows Philando Castile Shooting

    Warning: This video contains graphic content.

    Newly released dashcam video shows Minnesota police officer Jeronimo Yanez firing seven shots at Philando Castile during a 2016 traffic stop.

    (Published Tuesday, June 20, 2017)

    Evidence-based research has repeatedly shown no relationship between the MMR vaccine and autism, and there should be no hesitations about vaccines, said Patsy Stinchfield, senior director of infection control at Children's Minnesota hospital.

    "In medical science, there is no debate about the safety of vaccines," she said.

    Stinchfield worked at the hospital during the 1990 outbreak and recalls when an entire floor was turned into a measles ward. Two of the three deaths that year were children at the hospital.

    The hospital has taken extra precautions.

    On Tuesday, two workers sat at a desk outside the clinic's main lobby, assessing all patients who entered for risk of measles. A negative air filter hummed in the background, sucking away contaminated air, while all the clinic's tiniest patients and parents were told to wear masks.

    Anyone with measles' symptoms is ushered in through a back door, away from other patients.

    Amira Hassan, 4, came for a wellness check Tuesday and wore a mask in the waiting room. Her father, Mohamud Hassan, said she's been vaccinated, and he doesn't refuse a vaccine if a doctor says it's OK.

    Hassan, who is Somali, said rumors about vaccines persist, but it's best to ask a doctor or someone who knows. He chose vaccination, saying: "If your child is going to school, you don't want other kids to be affected too."