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By Mark-Alexander Pieper

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (May 24, 2002 - Pacific Daily News)---The number of confirmed measles cases increased to nine yesterday, but that will not affect the projected May 28 end date for the island's epidemic.

"This is part of the batch (of test samples) that was taken before May 7, but this won't make a difference in what is required to call off the epidemic," said Dennis Rodriguez, Department of Public Health and Social Services director.

A measles epidemic is considered over three weeks after the last new confirmed case, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention standards.

The latest confirmed case was May 9. The epidemic will end May 28 unless additional cases reported after May 8 are confirmed, he said.

Public Health officials are waiting for test results from 16 suspected cases to return from the CDC in Atlanta. Of those 16 suspected cases, only four were reported after May 8.

"Hopefully, I can still say on Tuesday that we are now out of the woods," Rodriguez said. The agency will continue to provide vaccinations against the disease, he added, although he does not know for how long.

The measles outbreak started in late April, and it was declared an epidemic May 9 after the eighth case was confirmed by off-island testing.

Officials have said most of the suspected and confirmed measles cases involve children ages 1 to 4.

Public Health's priority is to vaccinate every child between ages 1 and 6, who have not had their measles, mumps and rubella shot. The next priority is giving a second shot to children in that age range.

Public Health wants to immunize about 5,000 children, but so far have immunized only 2,596, Rodriguez said.

For additional reports from the Pacific Daily News, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Pacific Daily News (Guam).

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