HONOLULU, Hawaii (Hawaii News Now) - The two confirmed cases of imported measles in Hawaii were in unvaccinated children who traveled to Hawaii from Washington state and were here with their family from early January to the middle of the month.
The Hawaii State Health Department says Washington health officials contacted them about a Washington family that had been exposed to measles and then traveled to the east side of the Big Island in early January. Hawaii health officials learned two children in the family had not been vaccinated for measles.
“Basically, we were monitoring them very closely, admonishing them to stay in quarantine, meaning the home that they were staying in and while we monitored them, sure enough those two developed disease,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park.
The virus with its bumpy rash is highly infectious to people who haven’t had the vaccine. Park says the two kids were not contagious during the days that they traveled. The health department alerted Hawaii providers as Washington’s governor declared a state of emergency with 37 cases of measles.
"The likelihood of an introduction of a disease to a completely different place where you normally don't see it is high these days because of airline travel," said Park.
New York also has an outbreak stemming from travel to Israel. It’s an alarming trend since the U.S. declared measles eliminated 18 years ago. This month, the World Health Organization says people choosing not to vaccinate have become the threat as the number of unvaccinated children has been increasing.
“Our vaccines have been so highly effective, we’ve been our own worst enemy,” said Park.