Last December, a visitor to Disneyland theme park was suspected to have started the spread of the measles outbreak that now has the country worried about the disease, and whether or not vaccinations for it should be required.
For now, Temple is preparing in the event that the outbreak reaches Main Campus.
Mark Denys, senior administrator of Student Health Services, said that Temple receives advisories from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Any time [the CDC] issues any kind of warning, advisory, or infomation, I get it immediately,” Denys said. “We’re also very in touch with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.”
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey joined medical experts at the University of Pennsylvania on Friday to address efforts to vaccinate Pennsylvania residents against measles. He said 49 counties in the state have kindergarten vaccination rates below 95 percent.
Pennsylvania, at 85.3 percent, has one of the lowest kindergarten vaccination rates for measles, mumps and rubella in the country. However, Pennsylvania health officials say that children are not required to be vaccinated until they are 6 years old, which is when most children start first grade.
Student Health Services would work on an immunization policy and protocol if an outbreak were to occur, Denys said. He also said there are four principles for dealing with diseases or outbreaks.
“Treat those who are sick, keep anyone else from getting sick, communicate and educate,” Denys said. “From a public health perspective, we’re prepared for any outbreak that comes up.”
Temple has a population of around 25,000 undergraduate students on Main Campus alone, which leads to the potential for disease to spread rapidly.
Many public high schools require students to be vaccinated against measles. While Temple does not require students to be vaccinated, it is recommended.
Denys said 97 percent of New Jersey residents and 87 percent of Pennsylvania residents are vaccinated against measles, which would keep the infection relatively contained in the event of an outbreak.
“We’d have to identify anyone who isn’t vaccinated … so if they did come here, we’d try to take care of anyone who’s sick [and] keep them from getting anyone else sick by offering the vaccine,” Denys said.
Student Health Services offers the measles vaccine for $55. The cost of the vaccine is not reduced because SHS does not have the ability to bill insurance companies, Denys said.
Vaccinations are highly recommended by medical professionals to prevent individuals from getting sick and also prevent the spread of disease.
Melissa Degezelle, a single mother and adjunct professor for the Mosaics I course, said that she chooses not to vaccinate herself or her daughter.
“A lot of people that I know don’t do it because they understand the viruses and illnesses and getting through those with their children and their families more than they trust and understand the long-term potential side-effects of the vaccines,” she said.
Although she does not choose to get vaccinations, Degezelle said that since she does not have health insurance for herself, the cost for even a “booster” shot is expensive, even if she wanted one.
“The measles is not a concern for me,” Degezelle said. “I do think that adjuncts, like any other person who works at Temple, should be covered and have health insurance so that there is a choice.
“At this point I don’t have that choice because it would just probably cost too much money for me,” she added. “It would be nice for me to have choice in the matter of whether I seek out any additional vaccines or not.”
Though precautions are being taken, the measles outbreak is not likely to spread to Temple.
“Right now, it’s just surveillance,” Denys said. “It’s difficult to know until it happens, but you just have to be prepared for any contingency.”
Lian Parsons can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Lian_Parsons