Minnesota measles outbreak up to 34 cases — vaccine safety challenged at Twin City meeting

The Minnesota Department of Health upped the number of measles cases associated with a recent outbreak to 34 Monday — a five case increase from the department's April 27 count.

Officials identified Hennepin County as the initial site of the outbreak where 32 cases have been reported. The outbreak has since spread to neighboring Ramsey County and Stearns County, which have experienced a single case each. A vast majority of cases have occurred among children under five years of age. Thirty-two of the infected children had not been vaccinated against the virus. One case occurred in a child who'd received one dose of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. Officials have yet to confirm the immunization history of one of the infected children.

While the source of the outbreak remains unknown, the cases may be related to international travel, as the measles was declared eradicated in the U.S in 2000.

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Twenty-nine of the cases have occurred among the Somalian population in Minnesota. Immunization rates have dropped in recent years among the Somali community in Minnesota due to fears surrounding vaccine safety, according to the Star Tribune. These fears have been largely spurred by the debunked pseudo-science linking vaccines to autism.

On Sunday, approximately 90 members of the Somalian community gathered at a Minneapolis restaurant to hear Mark Blaxill, a national speaker who claims there is a link between autism and vaccines, speak. During the gathering, Mr. Blaxill discussed how parents could opt out of vaccinations per Minnesota law.

Two-doses of the MMR vaccine is 97 percent effective in preventing measles, according the CDC.

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