HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Oahu is at high risk for a measles outbreak this year, a new national report concludes.
The study, from researchers at the University of Texas at Austin and Johns Hopkins University, looked at counties nationwide to determine their likelihood of seeing an outbreak.
Oahu ranked 10th among the 25 counties most at risk.
At the top of the list: Cook County, Ill. (whose county seat is Chicago). No. 2: Los Angeles.
To come up with the list, the researchers looked at vaccination rates, international air travel, population data and reported cases.
So far this year, there have been at least 764 confirmed cases of measles nationwide ― the highest number in 25 years.
The cases include two Washington state children with measles who visited the Big Island on vacation in January. The two had not been vaccinated.
No other cases of measles have been reported in the islands this year.
The national study, the results of which were published in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases, concluded Honolulu County’s relative risk of a measles outbreak was about three times higher in 2019 than it was the year before.
Meanwhile, the Neighbor Islands had a lower risk of a measles outbreak, according to the report. The Big Island ranked 58th among counties nationwide, Maui County ranked 82nd and Kauai ranked 137th.
The study comes in the wake of new state figures that high rates of unvaccinated children at some Hawaii schools. At one Kauai private school, more than half of kids aren’t vaccinated.
Sahotra Sarkar, a philosophy and integrative biology professor at UT Austin and the national study’s lead author, said scientists have long known that “vaccine avoidance” is an issue ― and now the United States is dealing with the consequences.
“For measles, most experts believe that there will be one to two deaths per 1,000 cases, most likely infants," he said. “We are set to see over 1,000 cases in the U.S. in 2019. So, for the first time since the 1980s, we may expect infant deaths from measles in the U.S.”