Measles on the Rise in the U.S.


"Most of them refuse the vaccine because they think it will cause autism in their children," Koto said. "There is a fear in the Somali community here but I have been talking to my friends and people in the community about getting their children vaccinated. I think it's important they know."

Over the past decade, Minnesota reported more measles cases per capita than any other state in the country, with 26 confirmed cases to date.

California has the highest reported measles cases with 28 confirmed cases affecting patients ranging from 11 months of age to 68 years-old. Of those, more than half of the cases involved people who were not vaccinated, according to the California Department of Public Health.

"I don't think people should be panicked," said Katheen Harriman, the Vaccine-Preventable Diseases Epidemiology Section Chief of the California Department of Public Health Immunization Branch. "Obviously it's concerning and many of these cases are coming from returned travelers."

"We certainly want to encourage travelers in particular but also everybody to take safety precautions," she said.

In the book, "The Panic Virus," author Seth Mnookin writes extensively about measles and claims the most significant factor in the spread of measles in the United States is the increase of pockets of the country where the vaccination rates have declined.

"What we're seeing is something that happens throughout history. When a vaccine is very effective, people lose track of the dangers of that disease," Mnookin said. "Most people of our generation don't have memory of mass hospitalization due to measles and I think there is this false sense of security that a disease like measles is not dangerous – and that's just absolutely not true."

Five weeks after her son was fighting for his life, Koto is relieved to have her now-healthy son back home again. "I am happy to see him without the breathing machine," she said. "He is doing good and playing around."

Taking on the role of an ad hoc spokesperson for vaccination, Koto said she will continue to share Mahi's story in her community to try to urge others to seek the MMR vaccination.

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