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By Katie Worth

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Aug. 27) - Public Health
officials think two babies and an adult have come down with measles after
visiting the Marshall Islands and returning to Guam.

The Republic of the Marshall Islands is experiencing a measles
epidemic right now, and an estimated 300 to 400 of its citizens have come down
with the highly contagious and sometimes deadly disease.

The three cases on Guam have been clinically diagnosed as
probable cases.

"Blood samples have been drawn and sent off island,"
said Ron Balajadia, Department of Public Health and Social Services Immunization
Program supervisor. "We're hoping within a week's time we should be able to
get confirmation, but we're acting as if it is confirmed because we want to make
sure we cover all our bases."

Children are particularly vulnerable to the disease, Balajadia
said, but the good news is that the disease is easily avoided with an
immunization. He said that since learning of the three probable cases, Public
Health employees have been contacting schools and day-care facilities, asking
them to encourage parents to make sure their children are immunized.

Of the three patients, one is six months old, another is 17
months old, and the third is 21 years old, according to Balajadia.

He said all three had been to the Marshall Islands recently, and
were either related to each other or knew each other. They all are currently in
isolation, he said. Public Health officials have identified the places they have
been since being infected and are working to notify or immunize people the
patients may have come in contact with, Balajadia said.

In 2002, Guam had a small outbreak of nine measles cases, but
the island suffered a far more serious outbreak a decade ago, when 253 of Guam's
residents came down with the disease. Three people died in that outbreak. Prior
to that, the last major outbreak was in 1984, when there were 104 infections.

When asked if such a large breakout was likely this time around,
Balajadia said the department is hoping not.

"It's highly unlikely, but that's something we won't ever
know until the disease spreads, and that's why we want it contained as quickly
as possible," he said.

Parents should have their children immunized against the
measles, mumps and rubella after their first birthday, and again when they are
five or six. People of any age can be immunized, but most people born before
1957 are thought to be immune from the disease, according to Balajadia.

August 27, 2003

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