Measles, Rabies and Norovirus:
Information for Summer Camps
North Carolina summer camps provide children from all over the world both physical and educational opportunities. Ensuring a rewarding and safe camp experience is important to parents, staff, and the North Carolina Division of Public Health. North Carolina Public Health encourages camp directors to be aware of the following public health concerns.
Measles is a highly contagious respiratory viral disease that is preventable by the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. Over 800 hundred cases of measles have been identified in the United States since the beginning of 2019.
Below are tips for camp administrators:
• Review the facts about measles. Measles is extremely contagious and causes a high fever, cough, runny nose and red, watery eyes followed 3–5 days later by a rash that usually starts on the face and spreads downward.
• Know what to do when a camper or staffer falls ill. While only a physician should evaluate a patient for measles, camp staffers and administrators should understand the symptoms and have procedures in place to ensure campers receive proper medical care.
• Be able to access a record of each camper and staff member’s immunization status.
• Consider requiring all campers and staff to be vaccinated for measles or have evidence of immunity (e.g. laboratory test). Understand that if a case of measles is identified at your camp isolation of cases and quarantine of non-immune campers and staff would be required by public health.
For additional information about measles, visit the BCHS measles page.
Rabies is a disease that, while rare in humans, is almost invariably fatal. Wild mammals may be infected with rabies, and in North Carolina the virus has been found in bats, raccoons, skunks, foxes, beaver, groundhogs, bobcats, coyotes and other large carnivores. People can get rabies if they are bitten by a rabid animal or if saliva from the animal gets into an open wound or into the eyes, nose or mouth. People who are exposed to rabies should promptly receive post-exposure prophylaxis (immune globulin and vaccine series), which are 100% effective in preventing the disease.
Bats are of particular concern because bat bites are small and exposures may go unnoticed. Exposures of concern include any direct contact with a bat and when a bat is found in the same room as a person who may not be aware that contact has occurred (e.g., a sleeping person awakens to find a bat in the room, or an adult witnesses a bat in the room with a previously unattended child or mentally disabled or inebriated person). Finding a bat in a cabin can result in large numbers of campers and staff being referred for rabies post-exposure prophylaxis with extensive risk assessments and investigations conducted by local and state health departments.
Information on bats and rabies
Visit the CDC: Bats and Rabies webpage for more information.
Information on rabies prevention and control in North Carolina
Inspection criteria to ensure summer camp buildings are bat proof
Wildlife Damage Control Agents (professionals that can be hired to exclude bats and wildlife)
A list of professional Wildlife Damage Control Agents can be found on the Wildlife Resources Commission website.
Information about medical care after an animal bite or rabies exposure
For information about medical care after an animal bite or rabies exposure, visit the CDC Wound Care and Rabies Post-exposure Prophylaxis webpage.
Norovirus is a very contagious virus that can cause vomiting and/or diarrhea. Fortunately, most people recover without needing medical attention. Reports of norovirus outbreaks in summer camps are not unusual since the virus survives well in the environment and is especially easy to transmit in close quarters. Encouraging campers and staff to wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water, avoiding entry of ill campers/staff, keeping ill individuals away from well individuals, timely and thorough environmental cleaning with the proper product, and prompt reporting of illness are key factors in preventing the spread of norovirus.
Camp directors should contact BCHS Communicable Disease Clinic with questions about these conditions. The NC Division of Public Health, Communicable Disease Branch is also available for consultation and can be reached by calling 919-733-3419 (24/7).