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Hundreds of college students and faculty in LA are under quarantine to stop measles outbreak

A sick student at UCLA exposed nearly 500 people to the disease.

by Emma Ockerman
Apr 26 2019, 2:12pm

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Two Los Angeles universities are keeping hundreds of at-risk students and faculty under quarantine in an effort to stem a historic measles outbreak hitting the country.

After the Los Angeles County Department of Health said one UCLA student contracted measles this month, the universities took extreme precautions to keep the ultra-contagious respiratory illness at bay. The local health department asked that the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) quarantine 119 people who wouldn’t provide proof of their immunization Wednesday for 24 to 48 hours and asked Cal State to keep at least 154 students and library employees indoors.

The sick student that led to the quarantine attended classes in two UCLA campus buildings on April 2, 4, and 9 and exposed nearly 500 people to the disease in the process. The measles virus can linger in the air for up to two hours after a person sneezes or coughs, so 90 percent of people without immunity who are exposed to the disease will get sick.

The measles virus can linger in the air for up to two hours after a person sneezes or coughs.

In California, 38 people have become infected with measles, and Los Angeles County declared an outbreak Monday. In the county’s latest case, a person traveled through a crowded airport terminal at Los Angeles International Airport on April 18, according to CBS LA. The county might also be taking extra precautions because it experienced a massive measles outbreak in 2015, when 131 people were sickened from a single sick person going to Disneyland.

College students might not enjoy spending the weekend in isolation, but measles is one of the most contagious diseases known to man. And as vaccination rates have dwindled in the United States — largely due to misinformation about their benefits — the risk of outbreak has grown. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Wednesday that it had recorded 695 cases of measles across 22 states, with the bulk of the cases occurring in New York and Washington.

That makes the current outbreak the most severe one the country has seen since the CDC declared the disease eliminated in 2000. Nobody has died, but measles can be deadly for babies and immunocompromised people who can’t get the highly effective vaccine.

After more UCLA students proved they were vaccinated Thursday, the university released at least 43 from quarantine and more will likely be let go over the weekend, according to a press release. The last possible measles exposure on UCLA’s campus would’ve occurred on April 9, “so the period during which symptoms may appear is nearing the end," UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said in a statement.

Cover image: A student enters Franz Hall at University of California, Los Angeles, Thursday, April 25, 2019, in the Westwood section of Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)