The Hawaii Department of Health says they are monitoring the measles outbreak on the mainland, where there are more than 600 cases so far.
There hasn’t been a case of measles in Hawaii this year, but we did have a close call back in January.
The Health Department quarantined two people who had travelled from Washington state to Hawaii with the disease.
“Had any step in that process been missed – if Washington state had not been aware that these folks were travelling, had not been able to notify us in a timely manner… Had we not been able to find that family, they would have, you know, easily been out in the community, exposed persons and spread the disease,” said Dr. Sarah Park with the Hawaii Department of Health.
Dr. Park says each state health department works together to identify these traveling cases. Each jurisdiction will send a call or e-mail to another if they suspect people are travelling with a highly infectious disease like the measles.
“That’s a courtesy notification and then we work together collaboratively to conduct investigation, interviews, as necessary,” said Park.
She says across the state, about 90 percent of the population has been vaccinated against measles, but there are certain pockets of communities that haven’t been vaccinated, leaving them vulnerable to the highly infectious disease.
“On one hand you could argue it’s a high vaccination rate,” said Dr. Park. “On the other hand, when you consider how infectious measles is, it requires then, our herd immunity be quite high – in the high 90’s – as far as vaccine uptake. We’re down in the 90 percentile, barely by the way, and so thats a concern.”
She says the best way to prevent an outbreak is by getting as many people vaccinated as possible.
“If you were exposed to someone with confirmed measles and you have not been vaccinated, you are not immune. You will get the disease, period,” said Dr. Park.