Whitworth responds to measles threat

Rachel Ayres | Staff Writer

With the winter season comes short days and snow flurries and, in the case of Washington, sickness.

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency on Jan. 25 because of a measles outbreak that is mainly located in the southwest part of the state.  

Public Radio reports that 55 case have been confirmed, with the vast majority being in Clark County.

According to the campus health center’s web page, “measles is a serious, highly contagious, viral illness that in rare cases can cause life-threatening complications.”

Whitworth has made preventative moves to help protect students from becoming infected with the disease, including a Mobile Nursing Services clinic held on Feb. 7. The clinic was held in the MPR to provide the MMR (Measles, Mumps, & Rubella) vaccine for free. Students and staff went to the clinic to make sure they were protected from the virus.

“I have a record of the first shot, but not the second, so I figured it was better to be safe than sorry,” said Meredith Devey, Assistant Director of the Dornsife Center for Community Engagement.

Assistant Director of Housing, Alan Jacob, agreed with Devey.

“Better safe than sorry. With my role, if there were an outbreak on campus, it is important for me to be functional,” he said.

Such measures taken by Whitworth’s health center aim to prevent a measles outbreak on campus. While the epicenter of the virus is over a hundred miles away, students and visitors come from all over and could still potentially carry the virus.

Junior Alejandra Gomez made sure to get her MMR vaccine returning back to campus after Jan term.

"I was home in Guatemala for Jan term when I read an article about the outbreak in Washington," she said. "I am concerned because I am a student. I don’t have time or money to be sick. I am making sure to prevent it so I am good to go."

Symptoms of measles include a mild to moderate fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes, and sore throat in the initial stages, according to the Spokane Regional Health District.

To prevent infection, the campus health center strongly recommends two doses of the MMR vaccine. Even so, those uncertain of their vaccination status can still benefit from the MMR vaccine.

“No harm in having it again if not certain,” Jacob said.

Whitworth administration is taking the risk of measles seriously, and has said that unvaccinated persons may face consequences. “In the case of an outbreak at Whitworth, anyone who is not immunized with two valid MMR doses, or cannot prove immunity otherwise, may be excluded from campus and other public places, in accordance with state and local guidelines...If anyone in the Whitworth community is exposed to measles or develops measles, they may also be excluded from campus and public places,” stated an email to the Whitworth community sent Feb. 6, 2019.

Contact the campus health center by calling 509-777-3259 to inquire about a limited supply of free MMR vaccines, or if you have been exposed to measles or think you have symptoms of the virus.