Local health officials are hosting forums in Columbus this week after a recent measles outbreak among Somali populations in Minnesota.
Columbus has the second-largest Somali population in the United States behind Minneapolis, and health officials fear a possible outbreak in central Ohio as families in both cities visit one another this summer.
Columbus Public Health and Franklin County Public Health officials will meet with doctors, Somali leaders and community members today and Saturday to discuss the outbreak and how parents can protect their families by getting vaccinations and knowing the signs and symptoms.
“We are primarily concerned about children and adults who have not had their MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccines,” said Hibo H. Noor, health program manager with the Office of Minority Health at Columbus Public Health. “We want to make sure to educate the community.”
Dr. Mysheika Williams Roberts, medical director and assistant health commissioner with Columbus Public Health, said diseases are too easily spread.
“Any good infectious disease like measles is just a plane ride away,” she said.
Health officials in Minnesota have been tracking measles cases throughout the state for the past month. As of Thursday afternoon, there were 63 cases there. Of those, 60 were confirmed in unvaccinated individuals, including 53 Somalis.
Measles symptoms usually appear seven to 18 days after exposure and include a fever followed by a cough, a runny nose and a red, blotchy rash on the face that spreads down the neck and the body over several days.
Minnesota health officials link the high numbers of unvaccinated Somali children in their state with an aggressive campaign by anti-vaccine advocates several years ago that targeted Somali parents, saying that vaccinating their children would cause autism.
“This could happen in any community that is given misinformation,” said Jose Rodriguez,…