Minnesota’s largest outbreak of measles in decades is to be attributed to wrong information from anti-vaccine advocates, officials say. At least 48 people, the majority of them children, have been infected with measles, according to the department of health. 11 of them have been hospitalized.
The doubts and fears created a "natural experiment" in which vaccination rates plummeted, and disease broke out, said David Johnson, program manager with the Hennepin County Health Department.
"What we have now is a community that was really influenced by these anti-vaccine groups. And they've performed a natural experiment: to forgo the measles vaccine based on this propaganda," Johnson told NBC News.
Somali immigrants have been the hardest hit by the outbreak, Minnesota's health department said.
"We've seen that the vaccine rates in the community that's being affected right now were once about the same or even a little higher than our average. They've dropped to about half of that," Johnson added.
"And unfortunately now we are seeing the result. Measles is spreading rapidly in the community and 11 children are hospitalized. And at the same time there is no evidence of any corresponding drop in autism in the community."
State and county health officials had been struggling to restore faith in vaccines among the Minneapolis-area Somali community for years. Autism rates do appear to be unusually high in the community, and parents looking for answers found long-discredited websites run by various groups claiming to show a link.