Measles outbreak: More than 300 university students and staff quarantined in California

Outbreak has seen 695 cases of the virus in 22 states so far

Michael Brice-Saddler
Friday 26 April 2019 19:45
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The World Health Organization warns of global rise in measles cases

More than 300 students, staff and faculty at two Los Angeles universities will be quarantined after being exposed to measles, according to Los Angeles County health officials; the latest development in a resurgence of the highly contagious disease that was declared eliminated in 2000.

The University of California, Los Angeles, said in a statement on Wednesday that a student infected with measles attended classes at two campus buildings on 2, 4 and 9 April.

He did not enter any other buildings while on campus, but the university determined that more than 500 students and staff may have been exposed or come into contact with the sick student.

While many of those individuals were cleared, the university said it is awaiting medical records from 119 students and eight faculty members, who will be “quarantined for approximately 24-48 hours until their proof of immunity is established”.

The students will live on campus while quarantined, which for some could last up to seven days.

Officials at California State University, Los Angeles, also alerted its students and staff of a potential measles exposure that took place at a campus library on 11 April from 11am to 3pm.

Those at the library during that time were asked to provide immunisation records or be checked for immunity at the health centre, California State University said in a statement Thursday.

Thus far, 127 staff employees and 71 student employees have been instructed to stay at home and avoid contact with others under quarantine orders, according to the university.

“For those exposed to a confirmed case of measles who could not provide evidence of two doses of measles immunisations or lab verified immunity to measles, a Health Officer Order for quarantine is being issued,” the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said in a statement.

Quarantined students and staff are asked to stay at their residences and notify the department if they develop symptoms.

The quarantines could last for up to 21 days, the department said.

The announcement comes just days after public health officials declared a measles outbreak in the county.

The measles-struck town battling anti-vaccine propaganda

The orders come amid a surge of measles outbreaks across the country – a reported 695 cases overall spanning 22 states – exceeding the highest number in a single year since the disease was declared eliminated in 2000, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported on Wednesday.

In a statement late on Wednesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the United States is seeing “a resurgence of measles, a disease that had once been effectively eliminated from our country...Measles is not a harmless childhood illness, but a highly contagious, potentially life-threatening disease”.

The CDC cited misinformation about the safety of the measles vaccine as a contributing factor to the uptick in places such as New York. However, the Los Angeles Times notes that high vaccination rates in the state have prevented small outbreaks from proliferating.

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