Measles Update: No confirmed cases in Okinawa
CAMP FOSTER -- Military public health officials are refuting rumors of a measles outbreak affecting the U. S. military community in Okinawa.
“To set the record straight, the number of confirmed cases of active measles in Okinawa is currently zero,” said Cmdr. Michael P. Shusko, Director of Public Health at U. S. Naval Hospital Okinawa. “In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared Japan free of measles because no cases of the infection have been confirmed for over three years,” he said.
Shusko said rumors have persisted after a number of patients arrived at military medical facilities complaining of rashes and other symptoms similar to those of the Measles. To be safe, doctors performed tests on patients to rule out the disease, and all tests to date have been negative.
“There are many reasons rashes can occur. Some can appear somewhat similar to the measles but fortunately we haven’t had any confirmed cases,” said Shusko.
According to the U. S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), measles is a highly contagious virus that mostly affects children. It spreads through the air via droplets from coughing and sneezing. Symptoms start with fever, runny nose, cough, red eyes and sore throat followed by a rash that spreads over the entire body.
Measles can be dangerous for babies and very young children, but protection is readily available in the form of a vaccine, said Shusko.
The CDC, World Health Organization, and the Military Health System all recommend that children should be immunized according to the CDC guidelines, which call for Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine at 12 – 15 months followed by a second dose at 4 – 6 years of age.
There are no reports of an outbreak in the local community, either. According to an April 1, 2015 Kyodo News article regarding the WHO’s declaration of Japan being free of measles, there have been some cases reported in Japan, but all have been contracted outside the country, reinforcing the need for vaccination.
MMR vaccine is currently in stock at all Navy and Air Force primary care facilities in Okinawa and is available to anyone eligible for care in military health care facilities. Patients can request immunization through their primary care provider.
For more information on measles and MMR vaccine, log on to:
U. S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
World Health Organization (http://www.who.int/topics/measles)
U. S. Naval Hospital Okinawa is the largest overseas military treatment facility in the Navy, serving a beneficiary population of 55,000 active duty personnel, family members, civilian employees, contract personnel, and retirees. The facility also provides referral services for over 189,000 beneficiaries throughout the western Pacific.