We are cautiously optimistic and thankful that UofSC has not experienced a measles outbreak on our campus. This public health concern has been widely reported and has caused some universities to implement quarantine measures.
Our efforts at the UofSC to ensure to the maximum extent possible that our students are protected with measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine will no doubt help us reduce the chance of an outbreak. However, the CDC expects the measles outbreak to grow rapidly over the next few months.
Measles is highly contagious and spreads easily through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Ninety percent of people who have not had the measles vaccine will get measles if they are exposed to the virus. You can get measles if you share the same air with a person with measles, even up to two hours after the person has left the area. Measles can also spread before the infected person has symptoms
Symptoms and Complications
Initial symptoms, which usually appear 10–12 days after infection, include high fever, a runny nose, bloodshot eyes, and tiny white spots on the inside of the mouth. Several days later, a rash develops, starting on the face and upper neck and gradually spreading downwards. There is no treatment for measles.
Measles can lead to serious illnesses, hospitalization and even death. Serious illnesses include bronchitis, laryngitis, pneumonia, ear infections that can result in hearing loss and brain damage from encephalitis.
Pregnant women, infants, young children, and persons with a weakened immune system are at the most risk for serious illnesses. If you are pregnant, you need to take special care to avoid the measles because the disease can cause preterm labor, low birth weight and maternal death.
To be considered immune, an individual must have received either two doses of the MMR vaccine after the age of one or had a blood test showing the presence of antibodies to the virus. If you do not know whether you have been fully vaccinated or had the blood test, you should contact your healthcare provider.
Vaccine Safety and Effectiveness
The MMR vaccine is very safe and effective. Two doses of MMR vaccine are about 97% effective at preventing measles; one dose is about 93% effective.
According to the CDC, people born before 1957, when measles was widespread, are assumed to be immune since they probably suffered through an infection. Those born in the years 1957 to 1989 may not be fully immunized in that the vaccine wasn’t as effective and many only received one dose of the vaccine. Because of the outbreak in the US, the CDC is recommending that individuals that were vaccinated between 1963 to 1967 to get a shot of the current MMR vaccine. Individuals born during 1957 and 1989 should consider having a blood test to determine immunity.
Vaccine and Blood Test: Available at Student Health Services
Student Health Services is encouraging all faculty, staff and students to know their immunization status for the measles as soon as possible. Our lab can perform a blood test to determine your immunity or our immunization department can provide the MMR vaccine.
Please contact our immunization department at 803-777-9511 for an appointment to get the vaccine or contact our lab at 803-777-3958 to schedule an appointment for the blood test. Walk-ins are welcome.
For more information you may contact the Center for Health and Well-Being or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We will continue to closely monitor this outbreak and provide more information in the future.