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Measles – What Every Camp Director Needs To Know

Posted on May 4, 2015 by Bev Unger

As the summer approaches, families are thinking about the risk of measles and summer plans. I know this hot topic is also on the minds of camp directors as we read and hear new reports about measles out breaks and a small panic rises in us – “what if we get measles at our camp?!”

With proper knowledge and planning, the risk of infectious or communicable disease outbreaks at camp can be decreased and your ability to handle the situation heightened.

Increase your measles knowledge

Fact sheets from your own region’s public health department are only a click away.

Before the campers arrive:

The camp’s Health Care Custodian should review every health form to screen for those who are NOT immunized or who are immunosuppressed (such as people undergoing chemotherapy).

Immunization dates should be provided for every camper and staff. If they are not, it is recommended that efforts be made to obtain the dates of immunization.

Have a Communicable Disease Camp Policy in place:

Develop a policy that clearly states the procedures your camp will follow if an individual is suspected to have measles (or any other communicable illness).

To ensure the health and safety of everyone:

  • Prepare communication before camp starts and share it with your families. Be clear on your fee adjustment plans: will you reimburse or have a no refund policy?
  • What are you plans for campers / staff who are not immunized?
  • What are you plans for campers / staff who are immunosuppressed?
  • What procedures will be put into place for individuals who are suspected to have a communicable illness?
  • What procedures do you have for isolation?

Know the signs and symptoms:

I am pro vaccination; however, I support and understand individuals’ decisions if they choose not to vaccinate. We worry about our population who are not vaccinated but remember that vaccinations are not 100% effective. There is a small population who, although fully vaccinated, could possibly come down with the illness. With this in mind, we need to be monitoring and assessing everyone who shows any signs of illness.

Make sure you have health staff on hand who are knowledgeable and able to identify the signs and symptoms of measles (or any communicable / infectious disease). Early detection will mean less exposure and a better ability for your camp to handle any issues that may arise.

  • Symptoms begin 7 – 12 days after exposure
  • Fever ≥ 38.3 degrees Celsius (oral)
  • At least one of: cough, runny nose, conjunctivitis (red eyes), irritability
  • Small white spots may be on the inside of the mouth and throat, but not always
  • Generalized red blotchy rash usually appears on the face and moves down the body

Prevention and Treatment Plan – what to do if there is a case or measles at your camp:

  • At the first sign of a communicable illness, the individual must be isolated into a single room with the door closed.
  • Only immune staff should be allowed to enter the room.
  • The individual who is ill should wear a surgical mask (If you do not have an airborne infection isolation room, I am sure your camp does not)
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves and gowns may be added as required.
  • Make arrangements for the individual to seek an immediate medical assessment. Call ahead if you are going to a medical facility so they can take the proper precautions to avoid further exposure.
  • If it is determined the individual does have measles make arrangements for the person to be sent home for the isolation period (21 days for measles).
  • The measles virus can remain airborne for two hours; no individuals should be placed in the room for at least two hours
  • The room must be cleaned thoroughly

Additional Steps:

Non- immunized or immunosuppressed individuals

  • Contact families of those who are not immunized or immunosuppressed.
  • A frank discussion of the situation should take place and a joint decision made on the next steps.
  • It is recommended these campers be removed from camp for the isolation period.

Follow your camp crisis response plan and notify your provincial association

Report to public health

  • All suspected cases of measles MUST be reported to the public health department in your area.
  • Prior to camp, obtain a list of all the reportable illnesses from your local public health department and know they are there to help you.

Other Resources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

http://www.cdc.gov/measles/index.html

World Health Organization, Measles 2015:

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs286/en/

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Health Coordinator at Camp Robin Hood
Bev Unger, RN, is Chair of the Ontario Camps Association Health Care Committee and Health Coordinator at Camp Robin Hood in Markham, Ontario.