Vaccination fears fuel Minnesota measles outbreak

A Somali-American community has been struck with an outbreak of the measles in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. Dr. Mahab Ururshe struggles to convince recent emigres that austism is not a result of the vaccine.

Via ABC:

Dr. Mahab Ururshe, a pediatrician at Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, is originally from Somalia and says he still sees many parents afraid of vaccines, even though numerous studies have shown no link between autism and vaccines.

The parents say, "I know measles, I have had it and my mom had it -- better to have measles than autism," Ururshe told ABC News.

In order to convince some parents that vaccines are safe, Ururshe has spent long periods of time explaining that studies have found no link between vaccines and autism. He also has to point out that the disease can be deadly and that, in Somalia, there was no accurate data compiled about measles complications.

Severe complications from measles include pneumonia and inflammation of the brain and a condition called subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) that is fatal and more common in infants, according to the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates one to two of every 1,000 infected children dies from the disease.

Ururshe also tells parents that despite dramatically lowered rates of vaccination in the Somali community in recent years, rates of autism have continued to rise. While parents often believe him, Ururshe said some remain too frightened to act.

"They say 'OK, I know they think it doesn't cause it,'" Ururshe recalled. "[But] I cannot gamble on my son or daughter.'"

While the overall vaccination compliance rate for Minnesota kindergartners is around 90 percent, it is only about 40 percent in the Somali community, according to Kris Ehresmann, director for infectious disease at the Minnesota Department of Health. Ehresmann said with such low levels of vaccination, public health officials have been worried about an outbreak for some time.

"We've known it's going to be a matter of time before something happens," she told ABC News in an earlier interview.