Infectious Diseases

Few studies are available on Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander elders and risk for infectious diseases. However, leprosy is one of the unique infectious agents that may be seen among Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders (all age groups). Nationally, Hansen’s disease (leprosy) is rare with a total of only 96 new cases reported in the United States in 2002 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Accessed August 24, 2007b). Although annual rates for all forms of Hansen’s disease in French Polynesia have decreased since 1946, the rates are still relatively high (8.1 per 100,000 population in 1987) compared to other states in the US (Cartel et al., 1992). Hansen’s disease is also endemic in the Federated States of Micronesia with an incidence of 221/100,000 and a prevalence of 33/10,000 in1996 (Matsuoka, 1997). Beginning in 1996, chemoprophylaxis was introduced as part of a leprosy control program which identified a decreasing number of new cases in each successive round of screening (Diletto, Blanc, & Levy, 2000). Estimates of the elder-specific prevalence of leprosy in Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are uncertain. However, the higher prevalence found in the Federated States of Micronesia and French Polynesia suggests that Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander elderly populations may also be at risk. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are known to have a higher prevalence of chronic hepatitis B virus infections (10-15% versus 0.4% general US population) (Li-Ng, Tropp, Danoff, & Bini, 2007). A 2007 study concluded that hepatitis B virus infection is strongly associated with diabetes among Asian Americans but not among Pacific Islanders (Li-Ng et al., 2007). Further confirmation of this association is needed. In the meantime, the risk for Hepatitis B infection among Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander elders remains unclear.



  • Hansen’s disease and hepatitis B infection are relatively common infectious diseases that affect Native Hawaiians and other Pls.
  • Among Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander elders, the risk for these infectious agents are unclear but early screening to detect these infectious agents may be warranted for early treatment and prevention efforts.