Student health discusses measles policies

In recent weeks, measles has been making headlines nationwide.

In an outbreak that originated from trips to Disneyland in California earlier this year, measles has infected more than 150 people across 17 states, Reuters reported. Just last summer, Sedgwick County confirmed 11 measles cases.

Now that the outbreak has calmed and health officials are examining state and national public health policies, Wichita State’s Student Health Services is affirming the university’s process and policies for communicable diseases on campus.

At Wichita State, it is required by law that all Kansas medical providers report any clinically suspected and/or lab confirmed case of reportable communicable disease, such as measles, to the Sedgwick County Health Department (SCHD), said Camille Childers, WSU’s director of Student Health Services.

The management of these diseases is a joint effort with local health departments, Childers said, that would facilitate tracking of potential contacts or exposures. This helps limit the spread of disease and risk of an outbreak.

 “If a student is diagnosed with measles by Student Health Services,” Childers said, “we provide care and supportive measures for the student and work with SCHD to determine the communicability period and potential contacts at risk for exposure.”

At the same time, if an off-campus medical provider diagnoses a student with measles, local health departments will reach out to SHS to assist with tracking possible contacts and risks for exposure on campus.

“Situations are handled on a case-by-case basis depending on immunization history, exposure risk and period of communicability,” Childers said. “Part of our role on campus is to provide awareness and education to the campus community, and be a resource for questions.”

A typical case of measles begins with mild to moderate fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes and sore throat, before things get worse. Three to five days later, a red or reddish-brown rash appears. Typically, the rash usually begins on a person’s face at the hairline and spreads downward to the neck, trunk, arms, legs and feet.

When the rash appears, a person’s fever may spike to more than 104 degrees. After a few days, the fever subsides and the rash fades. A person is considered contagious from four days before the rash is visible to four days after the rash appears.

If a student is diagnosed with measles, they would need to be isolated while they are contagious to prevent the spread of disease to those who are not vaccinated, Childers said.

Individuals who have been vaccinated against measles with 2 MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccines are unlikely to get measles. Immunizations, including MMR vaccines, are required to attend public elementary and secondary schools, plus many private schools in Kansas and most other states. This means the majority of students at WSU should be protected from measles through previous vaccination.

“Proof of vaccination for communicable diseases such as mumps, measles or pertussis (whooping cough) are not required for entry at WSU,” Childers said. “However, as a nurse and the Director of Student Health, I recommend students update their vaccinations as needed, and submit a copy of their immunization records to Student Health Services when they enroll at WSU.

“Having student immunization information on file with Student Health will help us quickly identify who is at risk if there is an exposure or outbreak of a vaccine preventable disease.”