Last September, measles was officially “eliminated” in the Americas. Although diagnoses of the disease may occasionally crop up when infected people migrate into the US, this declaration means that no US-origin outbreaks have taken place for some time now.
America is under new management, however – one that is making completely unsubstantiated links between vaccines and autism. Boosted by this rhetoric, anti-vaxxers have stepped up their game, and as a direct result of this, measles is making something of a comeback. As reported by the Washington Post, Minnesota is suffering from its worst outbreak of measles in nearly 30 years.
There are now 48 confirmed measles cases in the northern state, mostly affecting unvaccinated Somali-American children. Forty-six of them are no more than 10 years old.
Medical professionals have stressed that it’s nothing to do with the Somali demographic itself, but rather the fact that it just takes a small group of people not to be vaccinated for this type of outbreak to occur in a tight-knit community. In fact, between 2000 and 2008, this community had some of the highest vaccination rates for 2-year-olds of any population in Minnesota.
So what happened? Well, parents were curious as to why some of their children had autism, and in their search for answers, they stumbled across the unadulterated nonsense of Andrew Wakefield. This disgraced British physician became infamous after he fraudulently suggested that the MMR vaccine caused autism in children.
Although there is no connection at all between autism and vaccines, they were taken in by what this man said. Around the same time, anti-vaxxer campaigners began to filter into the state, and hold town hall-style gatherings telling vulnerable communities that they should stop getting their kids vaccinated.
Consequently, the vaccination rate for young children has dropped considerably among the Somali population in Minnesota. Back in 2004, it was around 91 percent; now it’s hovering around 40 percent.
Alerts have been posted to the region, with authorities advising those who are unvaccinated to get to a physician and get the inoculation as soon as possible.
There are concerns that the outbreak could turn into an epidemic. As highlighted by CNN, measles is incredibly easy to pass on from one person to another. If one person has it, more than 90 percent of the people around them will also become infected if they aren’t immunized against the disease.
It shouldn’t need to be said that measles should not be making appearances like this in the US. Touting anti-vaxxer rhetoric is threatening to undo decades of hard work to stamp out diseases like measles once and for all.