In 1990 a measles outbreak in Minnesota sickened 460 people and killed three. Theoretically we have come a long way since then and the vaccine-preventable illness is almost unheard of, except when anti-vaxxers come together and start spreading thoroughly debunked claims that vaccines cause autism. Now Minnesota is currently facing its worst measles outbreak since 1990, so thanks, anti-vaxxers!

So far 34 cases of measles have been discovered in Hennepin County, Minnesota, which contains Minneapolis.

11 children have been hospitalized as a result of contracting the vaccine-preventable disease, and state health officials still aren’t sure of the source of the outbreak. This is the largest measles outbreak since the one in 1990, because the measles vaccine generally works very well and is 97 percent effective at preventing the disease.

According to NPR, most of the children affected by this outbreak have been part of the Somali-American community, where vaccine rates have reportedly dropped significantly since 2008, sparked largely by the belief that vaccines cause autism and that autism rates had been rising among Somali-American children.

Vaccines do not cause autism. There’s been a ridiculous amount of science on this topic, and it consistently disproves the idea that vaccines cause autism.

Even when anti-vax organizations fund studies to prove that vaccines cause autism, the studies come out saying that vaccines don’t cause autism.

State officials say that vaccination rates in Minnesota are actually very high, but among the Somali-American community in Hennepin County, vaccination rates have dropped to pretty low levels. Six out of 10 two-year-olds are reportedly not vaccinated, because their parents are worried about negative effects from the vaccines. But if you put one vaccinated kid in with a bunch of vaccinated kids, everyone would probably be fine. In this situation, though, a whole lot of unvaccinated kids are associating very closely with each other, and that has the potential to cause problems like this one, where the measles virus appears in one kid, and then they start passing it around to all the other unvaccinated children they come into contact with.

“It is a highly concentrated number of unvaccinated people,” said Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy to NPR. “It is a potential kind of gas-and-match situation.”

Measles is an extremely contagious virus, so this outbreak could well get worse before it gets better, especially since it’s not yet clear where the outbreak started. Unvaccinated children are at risk, as are babies who are too young for the vaccines and any people who cannot be vaccinated because of other health issues. Thanks, anti-vax parents.

(Image: iStockPhoto / Remains)