State health officials keep eye on measles

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Alaska health officials are monitoring for cases of measles, especially in people who have been traveling in the Philippines.

Authorities in the Philippines declared a measles outbreak in Manila, KTOO reported (http://is.gd/ukpDbe).

That’s of concern in Alaska because there is a large Filipino population here, and many residents travel to the Philippines during the holidays or have traveled to help in post-typhoon relief efforts.

Dr. Mike Cooper, an epidemiologist with the state health department, says the risk of Alaskans contracting measles is pretty low, even though it’s a highly contagious virus.

In 1996, Juneau had a measles outbreak with 63 confirmed cases. Anchorage had 30 confirmed cases in another outbreak two years later.

The state now requires two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine for public school students.

“It’s one of those diseases where we’ve done a good job in the U.S. of lowering rates and getting rid of homegrown disease,” Cooper said. “But then when you get pockets of people that are not immunized — whether they declined it, or didn’t get immunized when they were children, or as they got older their immunity waned — they’re vulnerable.”

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Information from: KTOO-FM, http://www.ktoo.org

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