HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - On February 2 an infant returned to Oahu. He was on an airplane that landed at Honolulu International Airport. He was suffering from fever and a red rash. He had a case of measles.
"One of the biggest concerns for us is it was a pretty widespread exposure." state epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park said. "The child was infectious while he was traveling en route from the Philippines through Guam, all the way to Honolulu."
Park said the mother took her son to a couple of pediatric offices before taking him to the emergency room at Wahiawa General Hospital. But none of the doctors diagnosed the boy as having measles. Most people have been vaccinated so measles is rarely seen in our state. The last confirmed cases were four in 2010.
"We have a lot of healthcare providers who just aren't familiar with seeing measles. Even though the mom was suspecting measles, a lot of them thought it was heat rash, it was some other viral illness," Park said.
Measles is much more contagious than the flu. A blood test and examination at Kapiolani Medical Center confirmed the case. But about nine days had lapsed between the child's arrival on Oahu and the measles notification to the Health Department. During that time the infant may have come into contact with many people.
"We are concerned because there are susceptible individuals out there, especially those infants who haven't yet been vaccinated. They are under 12 months. They are at risk for severe disease," Park said.
Measles is spread through mucus. Besides the rash, symptoms include a fever, cough and runny nose. Possible complications can be severe. Park said her office is alerting hospitals and doctors to be on the lookout. The Centers for Disease Control is trying to reach passengers who were on the same flight.
"We don't want to see a case of encephalitis, a case of pneumonia, a case of hearing loss, of blindness or severe diarrhea in these infants or other susceptible individuals," Park said.
She said the infant contracted the disease while he was in Manila despite his mother's best efforts to shield him.
"She did all she could but her baby still got sick," Park said.
If you're experiencing any of the symptoms of measles call your physician or an emergency room first.
"They may want you to come in through a special entrance so you don't contaminate or expose other people," Park said.
For more information, visit http://health.hawaii.gov/docd/home/imm/.