Sunday September 22, 2019

More than 1,000 Students, Staff Members Sent Back From LA Universities Because of Measles Outbreak

Those under the quarantine were instructed to stay at home and avoid contact with others, though it wasn’t clear how those orders might be enforced or what penalties violators might face

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People move about the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles, April 26, 2019. Some students and employees possibly exposed to measles at two Los Angeles universities were still quarantined on campus or told to stay home Friday, but the number was dwindling. VOA

More than 1,000 students and staff members at two Los Angeles universities were quarantined on campus or sent home this week in one of the most sweeping efforts yet by public health authorities to contain the spread of measles in the U.S., where cases have reached a 25-year high.

By Friday afternoon, two days after Los Angeles County ordered the precautions, about 325 of those affected had been cleared to return after proving their immunity to the disease, through either medical records or tests, health officials said.

The action at the University of University of California, Los Angeles, and California State University, Los Angeles, which together have more than 65,000 students, reflected the seriousness with which public health officials are taking the nation’s outbreak.

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FILE – A measles, mumps and rubella vaccine on a countertop at a pediatrics clinic in Greenbrae, Calif., Feb. 6, 2015. The U.S. has counted more measles cases in the first two months of this year than in all of 2017. VOA

Those under the quarantine were instructed to stay at home and avoid contact with others, though it wasn’t clear how those orders might be enforced or what penalties violators might face.

“Measles actually kills people. So we have to take that really seriously,” said Dr. Armand Dorian, chief medical officer at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital.

Measles cases climb

The number of measles cases in the U.S. has climbed to nearly 700 this year, including five in Los Angeles County and 38 altogether in California. The surge is blamed largely on parents not getting their children vaccinated because of misinformation about the supposed dangers.

Cal State-LA reported 875 students, staff, faculty and visitors were placed under quarantine after possibly being exposed to measles earlier this month. About 250 had been cleared by Friday after proving they are immune to the disease. At UCLA, 129 students and faculty were quarantined. All but 46 had been cleared by Friday.

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Materials are seen left at demonstration by people opposed to childhood vaccination after officials in Rockland County, a New York City suburb, banned children not vaccinated against measles from public spaces. VOA

Cal State-LA is primarily a commuter school, while many UCLA students live on campus. Some UCLA students were provided a quarantine area to stay in, university officials said, though they gave no details. Only one person remained there Friday.

Those covered by the quarantine were singled out based on their possible exposure to either an infected UCLA student who had attended classes in two buildings over three days earlier this month, or a person with measles who visited a Cal State-LA library on April 11, officials said.

Given the amount of time a person can remain contagious, officials said the quarantine would end at UCLA on Tuesday and at Cal State-LA on Thursday.

Lawmakers take action

Around the country, lawmakers in California, New York, Washington state and Oregon have responded to the outbreak by moving to crack down on exemptions to vaccinating children. On Friday, President Donald Trump urged everyone to get vaccinated.

Most of the cases are centered in two ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in New York, one in Brooklyn, the other in suburban Rockland County.

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FILE – 15-month-old August Goepferd received the measles, mumps and rubella booster shot at a clinic at Children’s Minnesota in Minneapolis. VOA

In Rockland County, officials declared a state of emergency and at one point tried to bar unvaccinated children from schools and other public places, but a judge overturned the order.

Authorities ordered mandatory vaccinations earlier their month in the affected Brooklyn neighborhoods and threatened fines of $1,000. City officials said earlier this week that 12 people had been issued summonses.

ALSO READ: US President Donald Trump Urges Vaccination Amid Measles Outbreak

Measles usually causes fever and an all-over rash but in a small number of cases can lead to deadly complications such as pneumonia and swelling of the brain.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the vaccine for everyone older than 1 year, except for people who had the disease as children. Those who have had measles are immune. (VOA)

Next Story

Measles Cases in US Cross 1,000 Mark for 2019

As of last week, the total for 2019 had already reached the highest point in any year since 1992, when there were 2,237 cases of the infectious disease reported

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FILE - A man walks past a sign advising about a measles outbreak in the Brooklyn borough of New York, April 25, 2019. VOA

The number of measles cases confirmed in the United States in 2019 has reached 1,001, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report said this week. As of last week, the total for 2019 had already reached the highest point in any year since 1992, when there were 2,237 cases of the infectious disease reported.

“The Department of Health and Human Services has been deeply engaged in promoting the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, amid concerning signs that there are pockets of undervaccination around the country,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement Thursday.

Azar reinforced the importance of vaccines in combating the outbreak.

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FILE – A vial of the measles, mumps, and rubella virus (MMR) vaccine is pictured at the International Community Health Services clinic in Seattle. VOA

“We cannot say this enough: Vaccines are a safe and highly effective public health tool that can prevent this disease and end the current outbreak. I encourage all Americans to talk to your doctor about what vaccines are recommended to protect you, your family, and your community from measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases,” he said.

Measles is highly contagious. The disease is usually spread through sneezing and coughing. It can linger in the air for up to two hours. Cases have been reported in more than half of U.S. states. New York has had the highest total, with nearly 700 cases reported this year.

Most of those cases have been in Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn and Queens, where there are low vaccination rates. The New York City Department of Health said that as of Monday, 566 cases had been confirmed in those areas since September.

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Los Angeles County Department of Public Health experts, Muntu Davis, Health Officer, left, and Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer answer questions regarding the measles response and the quarantine orders during a news conference in Los Angeles Friday, April 26, 2019. VOA

Clark County in Washington state had the second-largest outbreak in the U.S. this year with more than 70 cases reported. According to the CDC, the outbreaks in New York City and Rockland County, N.Y., threaten to nullify the nation’s status of having officially eliminated measles.

ALSO READ: U.S. Measles Outbreak Raises Concerns About Immunity in Adults

“That loss would be a huge blow for the nation and erase the hard work done by all levels of public health. The measles elimination goal, first announced in 1966 and accomplished in 2000, was a monumental task,” the CDC said in a May press release.

“Before widespread use of the measles vaccine, an estimated 3 [million] to 4 million people got measles each year in the United States, along with an estimated 400 to 500 deaths and 48,000 hospitalizations,” the release said. (VOA)