Minnesota state officials confirmed that five new cases of measles have been reported in the state, taking the toll to 29 children who have been infected with the disease since March end. Officials also claimed that this is the worst measles outbreak since 1990.
In mid-April, new measles cases were detected in the Hennepin County, which is the epicenter of the outbreak. However, on April 27, the state health officials revealed that out of the five new measles cases, one was detected in Stearns County. This is the first time this year that the disease has spread beyond Hennepin.
Measles Outbreak In The United States
The Minnesota Health Department expected the infection to spread, especially to Hennepin's neighboring regions such as Stearns County and Olmsted County. The outbreak was noticed in the local Somali-Minnesotan community and indicated that the children had not been vaccinated against measles.
An analysis in 2004 revealed that most Somali-Minnesotan children were administered measles vaccine similar to children of other ethnicity. However, a string of autism cases involving these children triggered a scare regarding the measles vaccine within the community. Health officials noted that by 2016, the vaccination rate among Somali-Minnesotan children fell to just 42 percent.
The infected child in Stearns County, however, had received one shot of the measles vaccine. The first shot of the vaccine is believed to give a person 93 percent protection against the infection. The second shot of the vaccine brings it up to 97 percent.
Among the 29 cases that have been currently detected, 11 children had to be hospitalized. However, state officials will need to investigate how the infection spread to the Stearns County patient.
What Are The Authorities Doing?
State health officials are trying to determine the initial source of the infection. They believe that identifying unvaccinated people is crucial to their efforts of stopping progression of the measles outbreak. The health officials believe that a tourist from another country may have brought the virus to the state, which then found a suitable host in the unvaccinated Somali-Minnesotan children.
In Hennepin County, the investigators were successful in locating five child care centers where the affected children could have been exposed to the infection. Families of the children attending any of those centers have been informed about the potential danger. They have also been advised to keep their children at home if they are unvaccinated.
Measles was declared to have been eliminated completely from the United States in 2000. This means that the disease does not occur in the country naturally anymore and can only be caused by a traveler from another nation who is visiting the U.S.