Respond to the Measles Outbreak
The 2019 measles outbreak infected nearly 1,300 people in 31 states, including students at K-12 schools, colleges, and universities. More cases were reported in the U.S. in 2019 than any year since 1992. Due to high rates of infection and low inoculation rates, more localities and schools are mandating vaccinations and eliminating exemptions.
Measles is a contagious airborne virus. Symptoms include:
- White spots inside the mouth
The virus can live up to two hours after being expelled into the air. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), 90% of nonimmune people close to an infected person will contract measles. The rising number of cases should compel your institution to plan for a possible outbreak.
Maintaining high vaccination coverage is the best protection against disease — including measles. Many institutions require students to receive MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccinations prior to matriculation. Policies at The Roeper School, Columbia University, and the University of Arizona, for example, require all incoming students to show proof of vaccinations.
Work with your campus health advisors and legal counsel to create or update your immunization policy.
A measles outbreak on your campus may require you to implement your crisis response plan. Review, update, and test the plan now to ensure you’re prepared. The plan should:
- Name a response team. Include personnel from health services, housing, security, communications, food services, academic affairs, and legal counsel.
- Define team member roles and responsibilities for preparedness, response, and recovery.
- Establish clear lines of authority within and between departments.
- Identify backup personnel, including external resources with specific expertise such as public relations firms and legal counsel.
- Incorporate a flexible sick leave policy for faculty, staff, and students.
- Establish guidelines for determining when it’s appropriate to close programs or the campus.
- Establish how to maintain essential operations if programs shut down.
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About the Author
Melanie Bennett, Esq.
ARM-E, Senior Risk Management Counsel
In her role on UE’s Risk Research team, Melanie dives into timely topics affecting education. Her areas of expertise include pandemic response, protecting minors, enterprise risk management (ERM), and technology accessibility. Prior to joining UE, she interned at the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.