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University officials are afraid that the campus is on the verge of a major measels epidemic after four University students reported being infected with the disease this week. "I have a major concern that we could be sitting on a major outbreak," Marjeanne Collins, the director of Student Health, said last night. The four students are all members of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity and the University wrestling team. Collins said the University has already taken steps to control the disease in these groups. "The way measles is, if you have one case in the community, it's considered an epidemic because of interaction with other students," University Life administrator Barbara Cassel said. Collins said that the entire city has been hit with an outbreak of the virus. Earlier this week, two nine year-old North Philadelphia girls died from the measles epidemic. The girls had not received vaccinations due to their parents' affiliation with a faith-healing religion. "In Philadelphia there has been a significant measles outbreak, mainly in preschool," Collins said yesterday. "At this time, no other college cases have been reported." Collins explained that measles is "a serious illness." She said there were ten deaths from the disease in people ages 18-30 years last year. She said symptoms include those typically associated with colds and the flu, like irritated eyes, fever, a dry "brassy" cough, runny nose and sore throat. After four to five days, the patient will then break out in a rash. She said the sick people are contagious during the eight to ten day period between the onset of symptoms to several days after the rash breaks out. The virus can be transmitted through the air without any physical contact with an infected person. Since measles is a virus, the treatment is only "supportive," -- there is no cure after infection once it is caught. She said the most common complications include pneumonia and ear infections, but encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain, is possible. Collins said that following recommendations in 1989 by the Centers for Disease Control, Student Health required students to have two immunizations by the time they have been at the University for two semesters. Before the new policy, students had been required to have only one vaccination. She said the service has since tracked all freshmen and transfer students but juniors and seniors are the most vulnerable students, since they matriculated before the policy revision. "We know the freshman have had it," she said. "Our concern is upperclassmen and grad students, who are difficult to track." Collins said immunization clinics were in place last week but, despite publicization, they were "not well attended." She said that, after meetings yesterday with representatives from fraternities, sororities, residences and Student Life, the groups decided to set up further Student Health clinics next week to accomidate all students who need a second immunization. Collins said ATO will be a focus of attempts to control the spread of the virus. "Without a doubt there will be more cases within ATO," she said. "ATO will be asked to cancel any social events for the next three weeks." ATO brother Chris Redd said last night the fraternity had planned events during the next three weeks, but had not yet been contacted by Student Health officials. "I can see that this could put a damper on things," he said. He added that he thought most of the brothers have now received their shots. Collins also said immediate action was taken to immunize members of the wrestling team. "We went to [Hutchinson Gymnasium] and we immunized them all," she said. Collins also said the vaccine will cost students $25 -- the cost the University pays for each dose. "Students will have to bear that cost," she said. "Hopefully we can work it out to put it on the bursar bill. We don't want anyone not to get it." She also said only about half of all colleges in the country require the second immunizations. She said it was unclear whether there were more outbreaks of the virus reported at those schools. Students at Siena College in Loudonville, New York, two years ago faced a large measles epidemic. "One of the basketball players came down with it," said Matt diPaulo, the managing editor of Siena's student newspaper The Promethean. "From there it spread and it got pretty big." He said the 2,500 Siena students were then asked by the college not to leave campus for a period of about a month. Editor-in-Chief of The Promethean Barbara Seidell said the campus was put under a "semi-quarantine." "Internships were delayed," she explained, and "there were no mass group meetings," during the period. Now, she said Siena requires strict adherence to mandatory immunization rules, much like those already in place at the University. Employees must now also show proof of immunization to work at the college.

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