Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The measles outbreak has officially hit college campuses. And with lots of students studying and living in tight quarters, campuses are perfect breeding grounds.

Here's what students need to know about the disease.

Which colleges have measles cases?

1. Bard College - A student at the college has a confirmed case of measles. ABC News reported that the student took an Amtrak train from New York City's crowded Penn Station to Rhinecliff, N.Y., meaning other passengers may have been infected.

Advertisement

2. California State University at Channel Islands - The college confirmed on Jan. 23 that a student was diagnosed with measles. The student does not live on campus, which may have limited other students' exposure.

3. Moorpark College - On Friday, school officials told the Ventura County Star that they had notified more than 13,000 students, faculty and staff that they may have been exposed to measles, although they were awaiting official confirmation.

4. University of Minnesota- Twin Cities - Health officials believe a student at the college contracted the disease abroad and that the case is not related to the larger California outbreak.

Advertisement

What exactly is measles?

Measles is a highly contagious disease that feels like a cold. It's accompanied by a blotchy rash that begins on the face and spreads to the rest of the body. According to the Centers for Disease Control, three out of 10 people who get measles develop complications that include pneumonia, ear infections, or diarrhea.

Who can get it?

People who have never had the disease and people who have never been vaccinated are at risk.

Advertisement

How do I avoid it?

The short answer is get vaccinated. Now.

Measles can be released into the air whenever someone with the disease sneezes, coughs or talks. It can live in the air for two hours and people can spread measles four days before and after their rash appears, meaning they may spread the disease before they know they are infected.

Advertisement

Post-exposure vaccination helps, but it only works if the vaccine is administered within several days. Gamma globulin, made from blood plasma, may help avert the disease if it is administered within six days, but it protects people for just five months.

What are colleges doing to help students avoid measles?

All four universities have notified students who may have been impacted and urged people who have not been vaccinated to get a measles shot immediately. Both CSU Channel Islands and Moorpark College deployed campus-wide emergency notifications using text and email to inform students en masse.

Advertisement

The New York State Department of Health urged people with symptoms who may have been exposed to call their doctors before visiting to avoid exposing other patients. The college also set up a vaccination area for students who have not received a measles shot.

What happens if I do get measles?

First of all, stay inside and avoid contact with others to avoid spreading the disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 90 percent of people close to an infected person who are not immune are also likely to become infected.

Advertisement

While there's no set treatment, your doctor might suggest an over-the-counter medication like Advil to reduce fever, or an antibiotic if you've developed an infection like pneumonia. Most otherwise healthy people will ultimately bounce back just fine.

So I'm not going to keel over immediately?

No, you'll probably be healthy in no time. Just take it easy and rest up. But health officials are asking people to heed the outbreak as a wake-up call. The measles vaccine and the fact that almost everyone in the U.S. receives it have reduced the number of cases to a few dozen each year. But doctors worry that a growing anti-vaccine movement could increase that figure needlessly.

Advertisement

As noted by The New York Times, the anti-vaccine movement arose from a 1998 medical report that suggested a link between vaccines and autism. That report has been discredited as false and was retracted. Exhaustive research has proven the measles vaccine effective and safe.

"Over the last few years, a small but growing number of people have not been vaccinated," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden said on CBS on Sunday. "That number is building up among young adults in society, and that makes us vulnerable."

Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.