Health officials fear measles outbreak in Minnesota

Health officials in Minnesota believe that an outbreak of measles may occur in the state after six cases have been reported this year.

Prior to this year, six measles cases had been reported in Minnesota in total since 2005, the Star Tribune reports.

The officials warn that vaccination rates must rise to stop the potential outbreak, adding that the disease seems to be spreading, particularly among the Somali community, according to the Star Tribune.

Four of the children who have contracted measles this year were hospitalized and later recovered. The outbreak may be a result of a Minneapolis-born child who contracted the illness on a trip to Africa. Officials are tracking down those who may have been exposed to the infected child. In some areas, families are being asked to keep their children home for at least three weeks if they have not been vaccinated.

Vaccination rates have been low in the Somali community because parents have associated a high autism rate for area Somali children with vaccines.

“We need to do some big campaign…to tell the people the vaccine doesn’t have any link with autism,” Dr. Osman Harare, a pediatrician in Minneapolis ,said, reports.

Symptoms of measles include cough, fever and a rash that spreads down from the scalp to the rest of the body. It is highly contagious. For every 1,000 children who contract measles, one or two may die, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.