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Prepare for a Measles Outbreak

Melanie Bennett, Esq.
October 2021
How to prevent and prepare for a possible measles outbreak at your school

A 2019 measles outbreak infected nearly 1,300 people in 31 states, including students at K-12 schools, colleges, and universities. 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:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • White spots inside the mouth
  • Rash

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.

Prevention

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 SchoolColumbia 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.

Crisis Planning

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.

To prepare for managing a crisis, take United Educators’ (UE’s) Crisis Response course and practice your response through the flu outbreak simulation.

 

More From UE

Guide to Creating and Improving a Campus Crisis Communications Plan

Additional Resources

CDC: Measles Cases and Outbreaks

Department of Education: Measles Fact Sheet