WELCOME TO THE UNITED STATES; HERE’S YOUR AUTISM . . .
Not surprisingly, many of the affected families are focusing on one of the aspects of American life that is different than their native country: the vaccination program. Mr. Kirby covers that, and also one hypothesis addressing what might make for the difference among the Somalis. Dr. Gregory A. Plotnikoff, medical director for the Institute for Health and Healing at Abbott Northwestern Hospital, believes that the move to an area at a higher latitude has had an impact on the Somalis, who may have a naturally lower ability to produce Vitamin D. And the decreased Vitamin D levels translates to less creation of glutathione in the body, and that deficiency makes it more difficult for children “to handle heavy metals and oxidative stress.” (I need to point out that potential exposures to heavy metals and oxidative stress may include vaccines, but are certainly not limited to them.)
It should go without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that the Somali cases ⎯ at this point anyway ⎯ are nothing more than anecdotal, and prove nothing. But as I have tried to point out before, anecdotes are an important part of any scientific inquiry. They signal the need to ask particular questions. And the questions in Minneapolis require the full attention of the scientific and medical communities.
Unfortunately, the medical establishment is predictably slow in responding. At least one mother states that she brought the Somali-autism problem to the attention of state and local health officials as early as April, 2007. Those pleas for help were ignored until the news media began to ask questions. Now the state’s health department has assembled a team under an epidemiologist. That team will soon be meeting to discuss what they need to do to figure out if there is even a problem that needs to be studied.
In the meantime, many of the affected families are returning to the country they came here to escape.