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Anti-Vaccine Groups Fuel Worst Measles Outbreak in Minnesota in 30 Years

Minnesota is facing a measles outbreak, and health officials say groups spreading false information about the MMR vaccine are to blame.

toddler getting MMR vaccine Oksana Kuzmina/Shutterstock
At least 48 people have been infected with measles in Minnesota, and 46 of those cases are in kids younger than 10. So what's behind the scary outbreak? Health officials are placing the blame on the plummeting rate of vaccinations in the state due to doubts and fear drummed up by anti-vaxxers.

According to the Department of Health, 45 of the cases are in unvaccinated patients, and Somali immigrants have been the hardest hit. That's because officials say that while study after study has found no link between the MMR vaccine and autism, the community was given false information that led them to believe there was.

"Unfortunately, the Minnesota Somali community has been targeted with misinformation about vaccine risks," Minnesota Health Commissioner Edward Ehlinger, M.D., said in a statement. "We're partnering with Somali community leaders and health care providers to counteract that misinformation."

The Minnesota Department of Health recommends that all children 12 months and older and adults born in 1957 or later who have not received the MMR vaccine or have had measles get the first dose as soon as possible, and that all Somali Minnesotan children statewide who received their first dose of the vaccine at least 28 days ago get their second dose as soon as possible as well.

"What we have now is a community that was really influenced by these anti-vaccine groups," David Johnson, program manager with the Hennepin County Health Department, told NBC News.

If there is one positive note to the outbreak, he said, it's that it's started a much-needed conversation that will hopefully lead to change. "What these groups have told people is 'You can't trust the doctors. You can't trust the science. You can't trust the government. Trust us and we can show you how to protect your children from autism,'" he said. "They've preyed on parents' concerns about the health of their children and they've provided them false hope that avoiding the measles vaccine will somehow prevent autism, when in fact not vaccinating only serves to increase the risk of a child getting a disease and then spreading it to others."

For the latest on the Minnesota outbreak, visit the state's Department of Health website.

Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and mom of two who writes about parenting and pop culture. Check out her website holleeactmanbecker.com for more, and then follow her on Instagram and Twitter.