Photo by Allison Hubbard
The measles outbreak that began at Disneyland is spreading, and Pepperdine is taking precautions.
“Because it started in California we are being especially vigilant about making sure that we are as protective as we can be on campus,” Student Health Center Medical Director Lucy Larson said.
There have been 121 cases of the measles, and it has spread to 17 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The measles is a respiratory disease that is highly infectious.
According to Larson, initial symptoms such as a high fever, runny nose and muscle ache make the measles look like the flu. However, a rash that starts at the face and red eyes that look similar to pink eye differentiates it from influenza. Larson also said if there are signs anyone has the measles, they should call the health center first before going in.
“It is a bit alarming because we are used to thinking [of] a cold and flu where you wash your hands and you are OK … The measles lasts longer,” Communication Professor and mother of two Dorothy Andreas said.
Andreas has a 2-year-old and a 5-month-old. She says she and her husband have been checking the California state website to see locations where measles outbreaks have happened.
Children cannot get the measles vaccine until they are over one year old. There is a temporary vaccine for children to get when they are under one, but it does not count as the two-part measles, mumps and rubeola (MMR) vaccination.
Andreas said she is considering the temporary vaccine for her 5-month-old.
At Pepperdine, approximately 99 percent of students are vaccinated, according to Larson.
“I think it’s reassuring that if you look at the general population we are vaccinated much more than most areas of the country,” Larson said. “The risk of a widespread measles outbreak on campus is not very high.”
Students can waive out of having the vaccines for health reasons or personal beliefs. Larson said the Pepperdine Health Center has the MMR vaccine for registered students. She said non-registered students can get the vaccine at most doctors’ offices.
If an outbreak were to happen, non-vaccinated students would potentially be asked to go off campus for up to 21 days, the incubation period for the disease. There have been no measles cases at Pepperdine this year.
“The scariest thing about outbreaks would be getting kicked out of school,” sophomore Sara Kimura said. Kimura is vaccinated with the MMR vaccine, but stopped receiving other vaccinations in middle school when her parents began researching the effects of vaccines.
Kimura said staying not vaccinated is a constant struggle.
“Do people know what it’s like to go to the doctor and fight to have no immunizations? … [My parents] really had to believe in it and keep fighting,” Kimura said.
Follow the Gretchen Andsager on Twitter: @gmandsag