BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Indiana University and state and local health officials are investigating a confirmed case of measles on the Bloomington campus.
The university is working with the Monroe County Health Department and the Indiana State Department of Health to identify and directly notify anyone who may have been in close contact with the student and to implement measures to help prevent the additional transmission of the virus.
Measles is a serious disease, which in extreme cases can lead to hospitalization and even death. It is extremely contagious among the unvaccinated. However, most students, faculty and staff at IU – and most residents of Indiana – have received necessary vaccinations or are already immune to measles Public health officials are working to track down those potentially exposed to measles during the period from the student’s travels to Bloomington on Jan. 2 until the student’s diagnosis and self-isolation on Jan. 6. This student, a resident of the McNutt Residence Hall, arrived before the start of the semester to participate in new student orientation.
“We take measles very seriously and ask the public to do the same,” said Dr. Diana Ebling, medical director at the IU Health Center. “We will contact campus and community members who may have been exposed, but we also want our students and staff to review their own immunization history and take appropriate steps.”
Students at Indiana University are required to have two doses of the MMR vaccine – and the documentation to prove it – before enrolling for their second semester of classes. It is requested that all students receive their vaccines before arriving on campus, but some receive them in the following weeks.
In addition to notifying people who may have been exposed, vaccines will also be made available to them if needed through a partnership between IU and the Indiana State Department of Health. The federal Clery Act also requires Indiana University to notify students and staff on the Bloomington campus about the measles case and how to protect themselves. Measles is caused by a virus, so it is not treatable with antibiotics, but the same hygiene practices that can help prevent the spread of influenza and other contagious diseases can help prevent the spread of measles.
“Frequent handwashing throughout the day and sneezing or coughing into tissues or your elbow help prevent the spread of many serious communicable diseases, including measles,” Ebling said. “This is particularly important in classroom and shared living and dining spaces.”
The best protection and way to prevent measles is to have had two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, known as MMR. Two doses are about 97 percent effective against measles. If you are unsure of your vaccination records, check with your primary-care provider. Even a single dose of MMR up to 72 hours after exposure to someone with measles can prevent it or greatly reduce symptoms.
It can take anywhere from 10 to 21 days after a person comes in contact with someone with measles for that person to develop symptoms. These typically begin with a high fever, cough, runny nose and red, watery eyes, followed by a rash that typically spreads from the head to the rest of the body. In some cases, tiny white spots may appear inside the mouth two to three days after the onset of symptoms. Common complications for measles include ear infections and diarrhea, seen in about 10 percent of patients.
A person is contagious four days before the appearance of rash and the four days after the onset of rash. The highly contagious virus spreads easily by coughing, sneezing or even being in the same room with an infected person.
Because there is no cure, treatment is geared toward alleviating symptoms. Rest, pain and fever reducers, fluids, vitamin A supplements, and the use of a humidifier are often recommended.
Health authorities declared measles eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, but it is still common in other parts of the world.
In addition to practicing good hand hygiene habits, avoid sharing drinks, food and utensils.
Students with symptoms should stay home, isolate as much as possible and call before going to the IU Health Center at 812-855-5002 during office hours or 812-855-4011 after hours.
If students have any concerns about possible symptoms, they should contact the IU Health Center or their primary-care provider.