Important Information about Measles
You may have seen news coverage about recent outbreaks of measles in several parts of the country, including on college campuses. The U.S. is currently experiencing the highest number of measles virus cases in decades. Additionally, Maine recently enacted a law that removes the religious and philosophical exemption from vaccines with the aim of improving public health. The new law goes into effect in 2021. We write today to provide some basic information about measles and how you can protect yourself from the virus.
Measles is a highly infectious and potentially dangerous virus that can live for several hours in an airspace where an infected person coughed or sneezed. If other people breathe the virus contaminated air or touch an infected surface, then touch their eyes, noses, or mouths, they can become infected. Vaccination against measles, most often with the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) or MMRV (measles, mumps, rubella, varicella) vaccine, is the most effective method to protect yourself from contracting this virus.
Although the likelihood of an outbreak on our campus is relatively low, the repercussions of such an outbreak would be high for students, faculty, and staff. In the event of a measles outbreak, Bates would follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Maine Department of Health, which advise, for people without documented evidence of immunity, exclusion from school and/or work for 21 days after the last case occurs. This includes people who have been exempted from measles vaccination for medical or religious reasons.
While our student body is over 98 percent immunized against this virus, the possibility of an outbreak remains, putting our most vulnerable at risk. The new law in Maine will be enacted starting in 2021, and will mean that a student would only be exempt from getting the vaccine if they have a medical reason for exemption, documented by a healthcare provider, to do so. Religious or philosophical reasons will not be allowed by law. Please be assured that Bates Health Services and Central Maine Medical Center have an outbreak management plan should a case arise, but the best and most effective protection is prevention.
If you have questions about how this may affect campus life, please contact Abigail Alfred, Manager of Outreach and Support Services at Bates Health Services.
If you are concerned about exclusion, we recommend that you verify with Bates Health Services that your immunization records are on file, or visit your doctor and obtain copies of immunization records. Having these records in your possession, or blood test results proving immunity, can save you time and stress should you need to provide them during an outbreak.
Paige Picard, DO, Medical Director, Bates Health Services
Abigail Alfred, Manager of Outreach and Support Services, Bates Health Services