Measles lessons: UB medical faculty tweak how they teach

Outbreak requires that medical students and physicians alike become more familiar with symptoms

Release Date: February 5, 2015 This content is archived.

Diana G. Wilkins, MD.

Diana G. Wilkins, MD, clinical assistant professor

“For now, measles has to be on our radar. ”
Diana G. Wilkins, MD, Clinical assistant professor
UB Department of Family Medicine

BUFFALO, N.Y. — 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,” says Diana G. Wilkins, MD, 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 that 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,’” she says. “But now, we can’t do that. For now, measles has to be on our radar.”

Wilkins notes that 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 says.

Mark Hicar, MD, PhD, 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,” says Hicar. “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 United States announced it had eradicated measles in 2000. However, Hicar points out that 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 says.

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