A recent study, published by the medical journal Pediatrics, identifies a 30-month-old child from Minnesota as the first patient infected with measles in a 2011 outbreak of the disease that continues to affect the state.
The Raw Story reports that 477 cases of measles have been reported in Minnesota this year.
“In March 2011, measles was confirmed in a Minnesota child without travel abroad. This was the first identified case-patient of an outbreak. An investigation was initiated to determine the source, prevent transmission, and examine measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine coverage in the affected community,” the abstract from the study reads.
That year, 21 people were eventually infected with the disease. The report indicates that the the source was determined to be a “30-month-old US-born child of Somali descent infected while visiting Kenya.”
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The study reports that the reason the disease was able to spread is a suspicion among Minnesota’s Somali immigrant population that the MMR vaccine causes autism. According to the study vaccination rates among that population have fallen from 91.1 percent in 2004 to 54 percent in 2010.
Dr. Abdirahman Mohamed, of the Axis Medical Center, told Minnesota Public Radio at the time of the outbreak that he believed the rate was much lower. He estimated that as many as 70 percent of the families he knew were refusing the vaccine.
"Every family will tell you that, 'We're not going to give our children the MMR. We're afraid that they're going to get autism,’" he said.
Fears that the MMR vaccine causes autism stem from a paper written by Dr. Andrew Wakefield that was published by the British Medical Journal in 1998. The paper has since been thoroughly discredited, forcing the journal to issue a retraction. Wakefield was eventually found guilty of professional misconduct and stripped of his medical license but fears of the vaccine still persist.
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In a recent article from the Daily Kos, the blogger known as “Skeptical Raptor” argues that the message of so-called vaccine deniers is dangerous to the entire population, especially children.
“This disease can be transmitted to children who are too young to be vaccinated, so it can harm families who actually want to vaccinate their children,” the article reads. “They may pay the ultimate price of an antivaccination caused epidemic.”