ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota health officials plan to mark the end of the state’s.
State Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger and others plan a news conference Friday to announce the end of the outbreak and to recognize partners in the response.
If no new cases of measles linked to the 2017 outbreak are identified before Friday, Minnesota health officials will declare the outbreak over.
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.
The measles virus commonly travels through the air where it can live for up to two hours, making it more contagious than the flu. The only vaccine available in the U.S. to prevent the spread of the disease is the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, or MMR.
“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.
In 2014, almost 90 percent of 2-year-old Minnesota children were vaccinated against measles. In the Somali community, that number plummeted to about 40 percent.
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