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Officials fearful of measles outbreak

By Edward Whang

MIT health officials are worried that an epidemic of measles similar to the one at Boston University (BU) might soon occur here, said Dr. Mark A. Goldstein, chief of Student Health Services in the MIT Medical Department.

"We're concerned about the proximity of BU," he explained. A person with measles could easily spread the disease to the approximately 10 percent of MIT students that are susceptible. One case of measles has already been confirmed for a graduate student in the Sloan School of Management, Goldstein added.

A jazz festival scheduled for Monday night at Boston University which would have featured bands from MIT was cancelled.

"All students should call home to check their immunity," Goldstein said. Solely having had the measles is not enough to guarantee immunity. There are two forms of measles, the three day measles, also known as rubella, or the more serious 10 day measles.

It is the 10 day measles that is currently rampant. "Students must have had the 10 day measles to be immune," he said.

Immunization shots also provide immunity, but many shots administered before 1968 may be ineffective, warned Goldstein. The "Live Virus Vaccine" is fully effective, but the "Killed Virus Vaccine," which was widely used between 1964 and 1967, is not. Only the doctor who originally administered the vaccination would know which form was given, Goldstein said.

Students who believe they may be susceptible should receive a vaccination at the MIT Medical Department as soon as possible, he said. The vaccination is free of charge and can be administered in 15 minutes.

At Boston University, 50 cases of measles have been confirmed, 10 are suspected, and about seven cases are being reported daily, said Dr. Julius W. Taylor, director of Student Health Services at Boston University.

Taylor hopes to keep the number of cases down to 200, but the Board of Health is prepared to handle 5000 to 7000 cases. Dormitories will not be quarantined, although a few students have already left their rooms to avoid being caught in one, he continued.

Michele Kulekofsky, an undergraduate at Boston University, confirmed that several students who live in Warren Towers have been spending the nights at the Howard Johnson's Motor Inn in Kenmore Square, because "they were afraid they might be trapped here during spring break."

Taylor said that "it is almost inevitable" that the epidemic will spread throughout the country during their spring vacation, which begins March 2.

All Boston University students who have not been immunized at the school must return from home with a form signed by their doctor verifying that they have been immunized, according to Kulekofsky.

The administration will check the names of the students returning the forms against their enrollment list. Students who do not return these forms will be subject to disciplinary action, including "limited mobility on campus," Kulekofsky said.