Measles vaccination offered after outbreak

By Joe Bush

Eleven NIU students have been diagnosed as having rubeola, or hard measles, after being exposed to the disease at a sorority dance Oct. 21 at the Clocktower Inn in Rockford.

The University Health Service gave vaccinations Friday at each of the houses which had members at the dance. Because the 300 doses of the vaccine donated by the Illinois Department of Public Health must be rationed according to department regulations, only those vaccinated before 15 months of age were vaccinated Friday, said Dr. Rosemary Lane, health center director.

Lane said the health center will purchase 500 additional doses to be available this Wednesday to anyone for a $15 charge. She said people vaccinated before 1980 might consider revaccination because pre-1980 measles vaccine is not as stable, or would be more likely to be inactivated by various factors, than the present vaccine.

The incubation period for hard measles can be up to two weeks, Lane said. The carrier is contagious before the symptoms appear and would unknowingly spread the measles. It is a highly contagious airborne virus. People in the same room with a carrier—”even down the hall”—are at risk, Lane said.

The symptoms of rubeola are similar to those of a cold or flu: a cough, runny nose and watery eyes. There is a fever as well, and about four days after the initial symptoms, a rash will appear, usually on the face or neck.

Immunization will prevent the onset of the disease. If immunized within 3-4 days of exposure the effects will be lessened, but immunization after that will not help much, Lane said. Antibiotics can be used to fight the disease’s complications, such as ear infections and respiratory problems, but not the disease itself.

If left unchecked, measles can cause pneumonia or encephalitis (brain inflammation.) However, only one case out of 1,000 progresses to that point. Lane cited a case several years ago when a small number of students at a downstate private college died of measle’s complications. The students had not been immunized for religious reasons.

The health center, the DeKalb County Health Department and the IDPH have met with members of the Greek system, and the health service has contacted instructors of classes in which students having measles are enrolled and has asked them to act accordingly.