UC Berkeley encourages students to take precautions against measles

Bar graph with number of measles outbreaks by year
Ariel Lung/Senior Staff

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UC Berkeley released a message to the campus community Tuesday regarding the recent measles outbreaks in California, encouraging students to take the necessary precautions to avoid the disease.

Measles is a highly contagious disease spread through the air. Its symptoms include fever, cough, rash, runny nose, conjunctivitis (red and watery eyes) and white spots — called Koplik’s spots — inside the mouth. The best way to prevent measles is getting two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella, or MMR, vaccine, as it is 97 percent effective in preventing measles, according to UC Berkeley School of Public Health associate professor of epidemiology Sandra McCoy.

“Measles is actually one of the most contagious diseases known to man,” McCoy said. “It is thought that, on average, a person with measles would affect somewhere between 12 to 18 other people if they were all susceptible to measles — that means if they hadn’t been vaccinated.”

According to Tang Center spokesperson Tami Cate, the campus community is “well prepared” against measles because UC Berkeley started requiring incoming students to be immunized against measles starting in 2016.

Tuesday’s message stated, however, that some students and faculty may not be vaccinated against measles. No cases of measles have been reported at this time at the UC Berkeley campus or in the community, but University Health Services, or UHS, is working with the local and state public health departments to monitor the situation closely, according to Cate.

The Tang Center recommends that each student check their immunization records to ensure that they have received two doses of MMR. This week, UHS will hold afternoon drop-in clinics from 1 to 4:30 p.m. at the Tang Center where students can be vaccinated. Next week, students have to book an appointment or call the advice nurse to get vaccinated. Students can get vaccines at the Tang Center for free with SHIP and at a price of $125, which may be reimbursable, without SHIP, according to Cate.

Cate said in an email that along with being vaccinated, general hygiene in the form of washing hands, covering your mouth when sneezing or coughing and not sharing utensils and water bottles is also helpful in preventing measles.

According to McCoy, there has been an increase in outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles over the last decade because many people believe that they do not need to be vaccinated against them.

“In general, there is a misperception that diseases like measles are mild and that the vaccine isn’t needed,” McCoy said. “In the case of measles, because it’s so highly infectious, we need to maintain high levels of vaccine coverage in our population to prevent it, and so whenever we have populations where there are people who are not vaccinated, for whatever reason, we’ll see an outbreak occur if there’s an exposure to the virus.”

Contact Aishwarya Kaimal at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @Aishwarya_R_K‏.