As of February 2015, approximately 125 cases of measles, linked to visiting a Disney theme park between December 17 and 20, 2014, in Orange County, CA, have been reported in the United States. Nationwide, a total of 141 measles cases have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including two cases in the state of New York.

The United States experienced a record number of measles cases during 2014, with 644 cases from 27 states reported to CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD). This is the greatest number of cases since measles elimination was documented in the U.S. in 2000.

Measles is a serious, highly contagious virus that can spread quickly among those who are not immune. Following exposure, up to 90% of susceptible persons develop measles. Early symptoms of measles may include fever, cough, runny nose, red or watery eyes, and feeling weary or achy. These symptoms are typically followed by a blotchy reddish-brown rash all over the body, and by white spots inside the mouth.

Symptoms generally start to appear about 7 to 14 days after infection. Further complications of the measles may include pneumonia, which can sometimes be life threatening, particularly in young children, pregnant women, and those with a compromised immune system from diseases such as HIV or cancer, or from medications that suppress the immune system.

The best way to prevent infection is to get vaccinated. The MMR vaccine, the only vaccine against measles in the United States, is a combination shot for measles, mumps, and rubella.

Preparedness at Columbia:

The Infectious Diseases Preparedness Working Group, a sub-committee of the University Emergency Management Operations Team (EMOT), encourages you to get the MMR vaccine if you are not already immune to measles—even if you are not required to have this vaccination.  More information can be found on the Columbia Preparedness website.

The vast majority of Columbia students are safe against contracting measles because New York State public law requires that all registered students provide proof of MMR immunization or immunity (born before January 1, 1956), before arriving on campus. Students may contact the Immunization Compliance Office by phone at (212) 854-7210 or by email at with questions.

If a member of the Columbia community is suspected of having contracted measles, the University will employ the precautions below:

  • Seek immediate direction from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
  • Isolate the student
  • Contact all students, faculty and staff who may have been in contact with the individual
  • Require any person without documented immunity to stay away from campus
  • Keep the community informed
  • Offer vaccine as appropriate, free of charge, to any person requiring it

Morningside students may receive the MMR vaccine, free of charge, at Medical Services. To schedule an appointment, students should call (212) 854-7426. If you have further questions about measles, please contact Dr. Melanie Bernitz, Interim Medical Director, Columbia Health at (212) 854-3187.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015 10:30am
Last updated April 27, 2016