The Minnesota Disease: Autism in the Somali community


The mystery of the autism rate in Somali children born in Minnesota has gained some local coverage, but the stories don't ever have the answers. Research shows Somali children have a much higher rate of autism in Minnesota, but concrete reasons are hard to come by.

The Star Tribune's numbers, published in the Huffington Post, are shocking:

Among Somali students in the district, 3.6 percent had autism - a rate of 360-per-10,000, (or 1 in 28). The paper said this was about twice as high as the already burgeoning district average of some 180-per-100,000 kids (or 1 in 56), and more than five times the national rate of 66-per-10,000 (1 in 150).

The community is calling it the "Minnesota Disease" and it's gaining national attention as a potential example of genes and the environment creating a sort of phenomenon.

More from HuffPo:

Reports of elevated autism rates among children of immigrants are nothing new. A small study this year showed that Swedish-born children of Somali immigrants to that country were far more likely to have autism than the general population, (Somalis there call autism the "Swedish Disease"), and another small study in 1995 found an autism rate of 15% among children in one Swedish town born to mothers from Uganda - 200 times more than the national average.

Higher than normal autism rates among children of immigrants have also been reported in Ireland, the UK and several cities in North America, especially Montreal.

So what could be causing this? Sources in their piece site the common concern of vaccines required when they come to the United States. Many sources said their children changed immediately following the shots and several women received different risky vaccines while pregnant with their now autistic child.

The story also cites the low levels of Vitamin D often seen in the Somali community, which can hinder brain development.