Health Highlights: May 9, 2017

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Minnesota Measles Outbreak Blamed on Anti-Vaccine Groups

Vaccine skeptics are to blame for Minnesota’s largest measles outbreak in decades, health officials say.

At least 48 people, nearly all children, have been infected, and 11 youngsters have been hospitalized with pneumonia and other serious complications of measles, according to the state health department, NBC News reported.

More cases are expected, according to health officials.

They said concerns of a link between measles vaccination and autism were stoked by vaccine skeptics.

“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,” David Johnson, program manager with the Hennepin County Health Department, told NBC News.

Somali immigrants have been hardest hit in the outbreak.

“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 said.

“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,” he told NBC News.

The only positive aspect of the outbreak is that it shows that anti-vaccine activists are wrong, according to health officials.


Contagious Bacteria Linked to Outbreak in Liberia

At least some cases of a mysterious outbreak in the West African nation of Liberia are due to contagious bacteria that can cause brain infections (meningitis) and blood infections, according to U.S. health officials.

There have been 31 illnesses reported in the outbreak, including 13 deaths, the Associated Press reported.

The bacteria, called Neisseria meningitidis, is spread through close contact with infected people. Nearly all the patients attended a funeral in southeastern Liberia on April 22.

Health officials initially suspected Ebola as the cause of the outbreak, but that was ruled out, the AP reported.

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