By Mirna Youssef
On Feb. 13, LIU Post sent an email to students informing them about a confirmed measles case in N.Y. The email is a proactive measure, and was sent to reassure students that the university is prepared for a potential outbreak.
“Long Island University seeks to enforce strict compliance with New York State Public Health Laws 2165 and 2167, which requires proof of MMR vaccination, or proof of waiver/exemption from vaccination,” the email stated. The MMR vaccine is for measles, mumps and rubella, and students are required to show proof of these vaccines when enrolling.
“Submission of completed MMR/Meningitis Form is preferred prior to or at the time of registration,” according to the LIU Post webiste. “Registered students who are noncompliant with NYSPHLs #2165 and #2167 on the first day of classes will have an H02 and/or H09 block placed on their accounts. These blocks will prevent any additional enrollment activity until missing documents are received.” The website explains that if the University does not receive a complete immunization documentation within the 30 first days of classes, students with such blocks will be suspended from campus and not allowed back until cleared by the Medical Services Office.
“If a student is vaccinated and, more importantly, if the entire student body is vaccinated, it makes it very difficult for the virus to spread, because few people are susceptible,” said Dr. Brian Harper, Medical Director at the Academic Health Care Center at NYIT. “In N.Y., there is a New York State Health Department mandate for students to demonstrate immunity to measles prior to entering college. Although rare, it has occurred whereby a person was vaccinated and still contracted measles.”
“While Post is compliant with state vaccination regulations, as they relate to our students, the campus experiences any number of visitors each day, thereby making it impossible to state with certainty that our campus is not at risk for an incident of measles,” said Gale Stevens Haynes, Vice President, Chief Operating Officer, and Legal Counsel.
The student health center, now located at NYIT, has not treated any LIU Post students with measles this year. “We have not seen/treated any students with measles. In the U.S., measles is fairly rare, due in large part to any active national vaccination program. It is more common in Europe, Asia, and Africa. However, there was a record number of cases (644) seen in 2014 since 2000, and in 2015, there is a current outbreak in the U.S., mostly associated with an amusement park in California,” Harper said.
There are symptoms that students should be aware of, generally appearing between one and two weeks after the infection, according to Harper. It typically begins with a high fever, cough, runny nose, and red, watery eyes (conjunctivitis).
“Two or three days after symptoms begin, tiny white spots (called Koplik spots) may appear inside the mouth,” Harper explained. “Three to five days after symptoms begin, a rash breaks out. It usually begins as flat red spots that appear on the face at the hairline and spread downward to the neck, arms, legs, and feet.
There are several ways in which measles can spread. The two main ways is through coughing and sneezing. “If other people breathe the contaminated air or touch the infected surface, then touch their eyes, noses, or mouths, they can become infected,” Harper added.
“You are the only one who can prevent yourself from getting it; be smart,” said Nicole Andre, a junior Art Therapy major. “If you have had the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccination, it is extremely unlikely you will contract the disease if exposed,” according to the University’s email to students.
“If a case of measles is confirmed, the protocol requires isolation and identification of those that the individual has been in recent contact with,” Haynes said. “A Post student who experiences a rash and a fever should first contact the nursing staff either at NYIT or at Post via telephone and share symptoms. The nurse will conduct a telephone triage and will be advised on the appropriate next step,” Harper explained. “The most important message is that we seek to avoid any potentially infectious patient sitting in a waiting room where they can potentially spread the disease. There is no cure for measles, so treatment is based on symptoms (e.g. antipyretics for fever, cough suppressants, etc.).”
If a student feels like they have been exposed, they can contact the Center for Healthy Living at 516-299-3468 for assistance. They may be referred to the Health Center at NYIT. “Thankfully, our doctor is down the road,” said Jackie Miller, a sophomore Radiology major. “LIU is prepared to manage confirmed cases,” said Haynes. Harper agreed. “The nursing staffs of both institutions consistently communicate with each other. Things are discussed in an advisory capacity; we have no medical or legal authority over the Post Student Health Center. The most important step is notification of the local department of health in the case of someone suspected of having measles,” Harper said.