What you need to know about measles at Carolina
With outbreaks of measles in six states this year and individual cases reported in another 16 states, Carolina’s Communicable Disease Team has completed a comprehensive, multi-departmental plan for preventing measles on campus.
Members of the team with expertise in public health, communicable disease and campus safety monitor for communicable diseases daily, whether it is an exposure in a campus lab, or a local, national or international concern that may affect the University.
Two members of the team, Mary Beth Koza, executive director of Environment, Health and Safety/Risk Management, and Michelle Camarena, assistant director of nursing/infection control chair in Campus Health, answered some questions about measles.
What is measles and what are its symptoms?
Measles is a serious respiratory disease (in the lungs and breathing tubes) that causes a rash and fever. It is very contagious, and, in rare cases, can be deadly. Infected people can spread
measles to others from four days before through four days after the rash appears, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Symptoms may include:
- a fever that can get very high,
- cough, runny nose and red eyes,
- rash of tiny, red spots that start at the head and spread to the rest of the body,
- diarrhea and
- ear infection.
How can I protect myself and my family from contracting measles?
We don’t want to make people nervous, but measles can be prevented with a vaccine. Of the more than 800 cases that the CDC has reported, more than 70% were unvaccinated individuals and only about 11% were people with only one vaccine. So it’s mostly an unvaccinated population that puts people at risk. A vaccine is the best way to be prepared for it.
If I got the measles vaccine as a child, do I need to get another dose?
The measles, mumps and rubella vaccination is a two-dose schedule that provides up to 97% protection from the measles. Some older folks may have had only one MMR and may not
be fully protected. People who know they got the killed measles vaccine (an earlier formulation of measles vaccine administered 1963 to 1968 that is no longer used) should talk to their doctor about getting revaccinated with the current, live vaccine. If you’ve only had one MMR, ask your health care professional about getting a second one.
I don’t remember if I got the measles vaccine. How can I find out?
All employees and students should be aware of their immunization records. If you are in the University’s required immunization program, you can check your records at the EHS compliance portal. If not, contact your healthcare provider about your immunization record and to ask if you need a vaccination.
Will the University set up vaccine clinics?
Undergraduate and graduate students are required to have up-to-date vaccinations before enrolling, so there should not be a large number of people on campus needing vaccination. The University will not set up vaccine clinics unless there’s a measles outbreak here.
What else has the team done to prepare for measles and other contagious illnesses?
The team has contacted departments that run summer camps and programs, asking them to collect immunization records from each participant. Departments are responsible for maintaining those immunization records.
In addition to our plan, key members of Carolina’s Communicable Disease Response Team are collaborating with Orange County Public Health, which has authority to direct our response methods.
How can the campus community get updates?
In the event of any epidemic on campus, EHS and Campus Health will update their websites, send emails and use other communication channels such as social media.