State investigates second possible measles case

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It’s been almost two weeks since a measles case popped up here in our islands, and it looks like it might be spreading.

On Feb. 13, the state Dept. of Health said an 11-month-old baby contracted the disease during a recent trip to the Philippines. The child was exposed to a number of passengers during his flight from the Philippines and during his layover in Guam. He also visited doctors’ offices and two emergency rooms before being diagnosed.

This new case involves a toddler who visited the same doctor’s office as the baby who first contracted the disease.

State health officials are now investigating what they feared: a second case of measles in Hawaii.

“There seems to be a case in a child who did not have a history of previous vaccinations. Somehow there’s a little gray area there,” said Dr. Sarah Park, state epidemiologist.

Park says the new case involves a toddler, who is over the age of one and old enough to receive the measles vaccine. Officials have not yet confirmed if it’s another measles case, “but does seem to have a rash that’s consistent, illness that’s consistent that developed subsequently,” Park said.

Park says the toddler visited the same doctor’s office in central Oahu as the 11-month old baby who contracted the disease from the Philippines.

“We’re still waiting for laboratory confirmation to be absolutely sure, but it does look pretty convincing,” she said.

They are working with that doctor’s office to figure out if more patients may have the disease. The state also believes the cases are related, since people who may have been exposed to measles would show symptoms by this week.

Symptoms include a rash, fever and a cough. Complications from this disease include pneumonia, inflammation of the brain, and death.

Health officials urge children who are at least a year old to get their measles vaccination. They’re also advising doctors to be on the lookout.

“They’re our eyes and ears out there,” Park said. “They have to look for these cases and they have to help control it. Don’t go to another facility, or if you’re going to send them to a lab, make sure you call ahead.”

The toddler, who the state believes may be its second case of the measles this year, is being treated at home.

If this latest suspected case is confirmed to be measles, the incubation period would extend into March. That means people who were exposed to this possible second case would show symptoms by mid-March, if they contracted the disease.

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