Measles quarantine is ordered at two LA universities
Amid a measles outbreak in Los Angeles, health officials announced Thursday that more than 300 students and staff members at UCLA and California State University at L.A. who have been exposed to measles will be quarantined for at least a day.
A University of California, Los Angeles student diagnosed with measles possibly exposed 500 people to the infection while going to class in early April.
Of those people, 119 students and eight faculty members have not yet provided medical records showing that they are immune to measles, according to a statement from the university.
Around the same time, a person who visited Cal State L.A.’s library while infected with measles possibly encountered hundreds of employees, some of whom are students. One hundred ninety-eight of them could not provide their immunization records, according to a statement from the university.
L.A. County public health officials decided to quarantine those 325 people for 24 to 48 hours until their proof of immunity is established, the UCLA statement said. Some may need to be quarantined for up to a week.
“I know there is concern about measles, particularly among the very small percentage of our community who have not been vaccinated,” said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block in the statement. “Please be assured that we have the resources we need for prevention and treatment, and that we are working very closely with local public health officials on the matter.”
In 2015, the UC system approved a regulation requiring that students be fully vaccinated before enrolling at any campus. At California universities in the last decade, there have been outbreaks of mumps, meningitis and norovirus.
But amid pushback, UC officials did not begin enforcing the regulation until fall 2018, the beginning of the current school year. Therefore, most students at UCLA enrolled before the requirement took effect.
California implemented one of the country’s strictest immunization laws in 2016 to try to increase vaccination rates, but high school students and young adults who had already finished their schooling when the law took effect were not required to comply. That has left a large pool of young people especially vulnerable to infections, experts say.
This group in their early 20s is part of what’s known as the “Wakefield generation,” because they were infants in 1998 when British scientist Andrew Wakefield published a now-discredited paper claiming that vaccines cause autism. Scared of the side effects of vaccination, many parents chose to opt out.
The news comes on the same day California health officials announced that 38 people had been infected with measles so far this year in the state, an increase of 15 from the previous week.
Nationwide, 695 cases in 22 states this year had been reported as of Wednesday evening, the most in the U.S. since 2000.
Overall, California’s high vaccination rates seem to have prevented small outbreaks from mushrooming the way they have elsewhere, experts say. California’s largest outbreak, in Butte County, has spread to 16 people. By contrast, an outbreak in New York City has infected more than 320.
Measles in most people causes fever, runny nose, cough and a rash all over the body. However, a very small fraction of those infected can suffer complications such as pneumonia and a dangerous swelling of the brain.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the vaccine for everyone over a year old, except for people who had the disease as children. Those who have had measles are immune.
The vaccine, which became available in the 1960s, is considered safe and highly effective, and because of it, measles was declared all but eliminated in the U.S. in 2000.
The University of California at Los Angeles, shown in February, is one of two California universities where health officials have ordered the isolation of exposed students and staff in order to prevent the spread of measles. The other is California State University in Los Angeles.