UNB 'quite hopeful' measles at Fredericton campus won't spread

UNB 'quite hopeful' measles at Fredericton campus won't spread

University of New Brunswick officials are "quite hopeful" the confirmed case of measles at the Fredericton campus will not spread, says the assistant vice-president of student services.

A non-residence student was "recently" diagnosed with the highly contagious virus, the university announced on Monday.

Public health contacted the university late Friday afternoon, and students, staff and faculty have since been advised of the situation, symptoms to watch for and how to protect themselves, Mark Walma said on Tuesday.

"I think that we've taken steps and public health certainly has taken steps quickly enough and effectively enough that we're quite hopeful," he said.

"It's a matter of monitoring."

This is the first confirmed case of the measles in New Brunswick since 2013 and is linked to a recent outbreak in Nova Scotia, according to health officials.

But the level of risk of transmission is considered "low to very low," said Walma. "I think the number that was quoted to me [by public health] was five per cent," he said.

Most people are protected through a routine two-dose childhood vaccination against the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR).

Anyone born after 1970 who has not had the free immunization and has never had the measles is considered at risk, however.

No information about the affected student has been released, but those known to have been in direct contact with the student between March 22 and March 30 have been notified.

"According to public health, April 20 is sort of the last day that symptoms could develop if a person were exposed to the student" during that period of contagion, said Walma.

"Of course, if someone doesn't identify that they've contracted the measles during that period and then it comes out later, well have to go back to this kind of monitoring process."

Early symptoms of the measles, which usually appear eight to 12 days after infection, are similar to the common cold, including a cough, runny nose and sore eyes. A fever and a red blotchy rash that spreads from the face down to the body come later.

"So it's quite challenging to tell the difference" between a cold and the measles early on, said Walma.

"I think in situations like this, especially if a person feels they may have been … exposed, that discretion is the better part of valour and they should contact either public health or their medical professional to discuss if they develop even cold-like symptoms," he said.

Measles can be spread through the air via coughs or sneezes by an infected person, according to health officials.

It can also be spread by direct contact with infected secretions of the nose and throat through sharing food, drinks, cigarettes or kissing someone who has the virus.

The virus can remain contagious on surfaces for up to two hours. A person can spread measles from four days before to four days after the rash develops.

Walma said he's "very impressed" with how students have responded to the situation.

"I think they're ready to watch for symptoms, I think they're ready to engage in appropriate habits from the standpoint of not sharing food or drink containers, not creating situations where the infection could be spread," he said.

"But they've remained calm, and I think that's quite important because as everyone knows, students are just entering their exam period and I think it's really important that although they have to be careful with regard to the measles their focus is really on their exams and doing as well as they possibly can."

There is no specific treatment for the measles. Most people are sick for up to 10 days and then recover completely.

Possible contact times with the affected UNB student and locations:

- March 22: Head Hall C10, 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

- March 22: MacLaggan Hall, bottom floor, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

- March 22: UNB Financial Services in Physics Building at 8 Bailey Dr., ground floor, 8:15 a.m. to 12:15 a.m. or 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.

- March 23: Carleton Hall, bottom, 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

- March 23: Tilley Hall, 1st floor, 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

- March 24: Head Hall C10 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

- March 24: MacLaggan Hall bottom 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

- March 30: Carleton Hall, bottom, 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

- March 30: Tilley Hall, 1st floor, 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Anyone with questions or concerns is encouraged to contact public health's communicable diseases office at 506-444-5905, Telecare (811) after hours, or the UNB Student Health Centre at 506-453-4837.