Outbreak requires medical students and physicians alike become more familiar with symptoms
Faculty at the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences have always taught students about measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases. But the current measles outbreak is driving some professors to begin emphasizing it more strongly.
"My students learn about it, but it hasn't been high on the list of diseases they are told to look for when seeing a patient," said Diana G. Wilkins, M.D., UB clinical assistant professor in the department of family medicine and a physician who sees patients at UBMD Family Medicine.
Now that's changed. Next Monday, when Wilkins teaches her third-year medical students in their family medicine clinical clerkship, she will discuss measles and the real possibility they may see patients who have the disease.
"Until now, when patients came to a doctor's office with a fever, runny nose and cough, it would make sense to think, 'Oh that's a typical virus, you'll get better in a few days,'" Wilkins said. "But now, we can't do that. For now, measles has to be on our radar."
Wilkins noted the third-year students are doing their family medicine rotations, many of which are located in primary care physicians' offices. "They are on the front line taking care of sick kids, and they could be the ones seeing a potential case of measles," she said.
Mark Hicar, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of pediatrics, who sees patients at UBMD Pediatrics, also is likely to do the same.
"I always include a brief mention of measles as one of the many topics in my standard infectious disease lecture to medical students," Hicar said. "With the recent outbreak, I will need to revise this lecture to emphasize the subtleties of presentation, current treatments, severity of illness and how infectious it is. Additionally, it will become a major topic in my upcoming spring pediatric department grand rounds."
The U.S. announced it eradicated measles in 2000. However, Hicar points out individuals who are unvaccinated, or vaccinated but only partially immunized, may still become infected and spread measles in isolated outbreaks.
"If the numbers of these two groups rise high enough, measles may once again become endemic in the United States," he said.