K-State, Manhattan prepared for threat of measles return

One of the most forgetful tasks for students is to make sure they've taken important steps into avoiding illnesses such as measles. Volunteers at the Health Fair give out paperwork to students to fill out before getting their vaccination shot in the Student Union on Nov. 2, 2011. (File Photo by Evert Nelson | The Collegian)

Some of the most dangerous things in life can be easily forgotten about. One such thing is measles, a rare but serious disease that is slowly making its way back into the homes of Americans. Measles has been around for quite a while now, but not many people have given much thought to it until just recently.

This may be because measles was declared exterminated from the U.S. in 2000, according to the Washington Post article titled, “Measles outbreak spreads to three more states and Washington D.C.; 121 people now affected.” Since then, more and more people have been declining or neglecting vaccinations. Within the last couple of weeks, people have started to pay more attention to it.

This is because of measles outbreak that occurred in Disneyland last December. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, as of Jan. 1, 121 people from 17 states have been affected by measles.

According to Lucy Westcott for Newsweek, “January 2015 saw more measles cases than all of 2012.”

Measles is a highly contagious infection caused by a virus. The virus lives in the infected person’s nose and throat, so it can be spread to others by sneezing or coughing. Once it is in the air, it can stay there for up to two hours.

“The best ways to protect yourself and your loved ones from vaccine-preventable diseases is to get vaccinated,” said Patti Grub, infectious disease nurse for Riley County Health Department and Family Connections.

Vaccination is important because it lowers the risk of catching the disease or spreading it to others and causing an outbreak. Grub also suggests practicing good hand washing, as well as sneezing or coughing into one’s elbow or tissue.

For students who needed a vaccination, Lafene Health Center offered a measles mumps and rubella vaccination clinic on Wednesday from 8:30-11:30 a.m. and from 1-4 p.m. If the measles outbreak were to spread to Manhattan, K-State already has a well-developed plan and is prepared for any major infectious disease outbreak.

The Manhattan community and the Riley County Health Department are working especially hard to be active in preventing measles in the Manhattan area.

“We have an internal ‘Contagious Disease Policy’ and a new policy has been developed by the Infectious Disease Advisory Committee from the university that addresses the plans for managing an infectious disease outbreak,” said Catherine Barry, Lafene’s associate clinical director and risk manager. “Any outbreak of a communicable disease would be managed in conjunction and cooperation with the Riley County Health Department and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Potentially, the CDC might be involved in a large outbreak in any community.”

Even with this information, collective awareness can be helpful to students and faculty. Lafene recently sent out an email warning people of the possibility of disease. Luke Lindesmith, sophomore in mechanical engineering, said before receiving the email, he had no idea the disease was going around again.

“Now that I know, I am actually a little concerned,” Lindesmith said. “I plan on keeping tabs on the measles situation and if there is a closer case I might go get a shot.”