University Health Services urges measles prevention due to Pa., national cases

September 24, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State University Health Services (UHS) is encouraging students to protect themselves against measles in light of recent cases in Pennsylvania and nationally. Measles is a highly contagious and serious disease with symptoms including high fever, cough, runny nose, rash, and red, watery eyes.

Although there have been no confirmed measles cases at University Park or any Penn State campus, UHS encourages students to learn about measles and take precautions, especially if they will be traveling internationally or to areas with current measles activity.

Measles, considered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to be one of the most contagious diseases in the world, is spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It can live up to two hours suspended in the air. According to the CDC, 90% of people around an infected person also will become infected if not protected.

Measles symptoms appear seven to 14 days after contact with the virus and typically include high fever, cough, runny nose, and watery eyes. Tiny white spots called Koplik spots may appear inside the mouth two to three days after symptoms begin, and measles rash appears three to five days after the first symptoms. People with measles are considered infectious four days before through four days after the rash appears.

Those who do not have presumed immunity to measles — either through receipt of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine or through previously contracting measles — should be especially aware of the risks. Pregnant women, adults 20 years and older, children over 5 years, and people with compromised immune systems are at highest risk.

Highly contagious; can spread up to 2 hours after infected person left. Majority of people who got measles were unvaccinated. Cases have been reported in PA, NY, NJ, MD & more. The MMR vaccine is 93-97% effective & the only way to prevent measles.

Although there have been no confirmed measles cases at University Park or any Penn State campus, Penn State University Health Services is encouraging students to protect themselves against measles in light of recent cases in Pennsylvania and nationally. Measles is a highly contagious and serious disease with symptoms including high fever, cough, runny nose, rash, and red, watery eyes. 

IMAGE: Penn State

Below are answers to frequently asked questions about measles.

What if I was never vaccinated against measles?

Anyone who does not have immunity to measles, either through receipt of MMR vaccine or a previous measles infection, should schedule an appointment immediately to receive the vaccine at University Health Services or from their primary-care provider. In the event of a measles outbreak, anyone who does not have documented presumed immunity to measles may be removed from campus until the measles threat has passed. This could be several days to weeks, depending on the outbreak situation.

If I was vaccinated, am I protected?

Most confirmed measles cases are in people who are unvaccinated. Measles is still common in many parts of the world and travelers with measles continue to bring the disease into the U.S. Measles can spread when it reaches a community in the U.S. where groups of people are unvaccinated. According to the CDC, the measles component of the MMR vaccine is about 93% effective when a person receives one dose and 97% effective with two.

What should I do if I contract measles? What is the treatment?

While there is no treatment for measles, University Health Services is advising that anyone who develops measles symptoms call the UHS Advice Nurse at 814-863-4463 before going to UHS. Due to high infectivity with measles, all people suspected of having measles must put a mask on before entering the building to prevent potential spread to others. There is no cure or treatment for measles. People suspected or confirmed to have measles must remain in isolation until they are no longer infectious, get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids, and take over-the-counter medications to ease symptoms.

The best way to protect yourself from measles is the MMR vaccine. It provides long-lasting protection against all strains of measles. Another vaccine, the measles-mumps-rubella-varicella (MMRV) vaccine, which protects against all four diseases, is also available to children 12 months through 12 years of age.

If you have any measles symptoms or suspect you may have been in contact with measles, call the UHS Advice Nurse at 814-863-4463 for advice before going to the Student Health Center.

For additional information, review the following resources:

Last Updated October 03, 2019