A measles outbreak that sickened 79 Minnesotans and threw a spotlight on low child vaccination rates may finally be over after nearly five months.
State health officials have scheduled a news conference for Friday afternoon where they will make the announcement — if no new cases are reported.
No additional measles cases have been detected for the past six weeks, twice the disease’s normal incubation period, meaning that the highly contagious virus is probably not still spreading to people who have not been vaccinated and lack natural immunity. It can take up to three weeks for measles symptoms to develop, and typically epidemiologists wait through two incubation periods without new cases before they will declare an outbreak finished.
The outbreak was centered in the Somali-American community in Hennepin County, where the share of vaccinated children fell sharply in recent years after a scare over the discredited belief that the vaccine is linked to autism.
Many of the infections occurred in day care facilities used by Somali families. Studies show that the unvaccinated have a 90 percent chance of catching measles if they are in the same room as an infected person.
As the number of cases spread, state and local officials, as well as Somali community leaders, urged parents to vaccinate their children to help stop the outbreak. State data showed that the number of shots given did increase.