Saturday, June 23, 2001

Averting Kauai measles
epidemic ‘just lucky’

By Helen Altonn

Kauai's threat of a measles epidemic has ended without the infection spreading beyond the first case, but the island and families are just lucky, says the state Health Department's district health officer.

"There are a number of unimmunized kids in school or kids with only one measles shot, so we really expected several cases," said Dr. Ron Metler, district health services administrator.

"We were really lucky. Parents that put kids at risk by not having immunization are really lucky, too," he said. "This really should be a wake-up call to parents who do that."

Some parents still refuse to have their kids immunized, he said. They have exemptions from a school requirement for two MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) shots.

About 25 students were quarantined at home after exposure to a 16-year-old classmate who was hospitalized with measles.

The quarantine ended this week with no apparent new cases, Metler said. "It's quite a surprise.

"It means we had good response from the epidemiologist specialist, the local community and public-health nurses in getting immunizations done."

A free clinic was held for vaccinations, and some immunizations were given to susceptible children at the school. About 25 shots were given, Metler said.

It is still possible to have new cases, but unlikely at this point, he said.

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