East Hawaii News

Health Officials Concerned About Measles Case

February 14, 2014, 12:41 PM HST
* Updated February 14, 5:58 PM
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State health officials are on the lookout for more cases of measles after an Oahu infant contracted the disease in the Philippines.

The child was hospitalized and is recovering, but was infectious while traveling back to Honolulu and during visits to healthcare providers.

According to Department of Health records for the period from 2003 to 2012, apparently the latest year for which data is available, this is the first case of measles in Hawaii since 2010, when four cases were reported.

The records indicate 37 cases of measles in the state since 2003. In that year 22 cases were reported, the only year with double-digit cases.

Health officials noted that measles is a highly contagious disease spread by direct contact with mucus from the nose and throat of an infected person. It is also spread through the air by respiratory droplets.

Possible complications of the disease include pneumonia, encephalitis, ear infections and diarrhea. It can also be fatal.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, worldwide measles vaccination programs reached 145 million children in 2012, resulting in an estimated 78% reduction in measles deaths, although the disease still claimed 122,000 lives that year.

Those at greatest risk for the disease are those who are not vaccinated, children under a year old, pregnant women and persons with compromised immune systems.

“We are very concerned about the potential for additional cases of measles,” said Dr. Sarah Y. Park, state epidemiologist.  “This disease is so contagious that it will infect 90 percent of the contacts who are not immune.

“We urge people who suspect they have measles, that is, fever and widespread rash, to call their doctor right away and isolate themselves from others to help contain the spread of illness,” Park said.

The symptoms of measles generally begin about 14 days after a person is infected, although they can begin with a week or as long as three weeks afterwards.

The systems include a blotchy red rash, fever, cough, runny nose, feeling run-down or achy.

Officials said the best way to prevent measles is to get vaccinated.

“We are encouraging everyone to check their immunization status and contact their healthcare provider if they need need to be vaccinated,” said Ronald Balajadia, immunization branch chief.

For a list of vaccinating pharmacies, visit http://health.hawaii.gov/docd/files/2013/07/IMM_Adult_Resource_List.pdf.

People without health insurance may call Aloha United Way 2-1-1 for assistance.

For more information, visit http://health.hawaii.gov/docd/home/imm/.

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