Over 300 College Students Quarantined Amid Measles Outbreak
325 students at UCLA and Cal State L.A. have been quarantined by health officials following an exposure to measles. The quarantine could last as little as 24 to 48 hours or as long as a week.
An outbreak of measles has been declared in Los Angeles County. Area health officials said last week they’re investigating five cases, following an earlier cluster in the northern part of the state.
One of the five people infected in L.A. County is a student at UCLA. The individual had attended class for three days in early April before the infection was discovered. In addition, officials say an infected person used the library at Cal State L.A. at some point early this month.
Health officials say the college-age population is at a higher risk for spreading measles. That’s because the typical college student was born shortly before disgraced British scientist Andrew Wakefield published his medical paper linking vaccines to autism in 1998. Wakefield's work was later completely debunked and he lost his ability to practice medicine, but not before inspiring a generation of parents who refuse to vaccinate their children.
While the UC system began requiring measles vaccinations in 2015, enforcement of the policy did not begin until the start of this school year. That means most students on UC campuses enrolled before the new rules took effect. That’s a major problem because tight quarters, such as classrooms and dorms, can contribute to the spread of the virus.
“Our eyes are always focused on these elementary schools … but [vaccine refusal] has been going on for a while now, so you have under-vaccinated kids becoming under-vaccinated adults,” UC Riverside professor and medical sociologist Richard M. Carpiano told the Los Angeles Times. “This is a higher education issue.”
Measles is one of the most contagious viral infections one can contract. It is also almost entirely preventable through immunization. Infants under one year old and those with conditions that severely hinder the body’s immune system are unable to receive the vaccine, so unprotected individuals place these groups at tremendous risk.
L.A. County’s battle with the once eradicated illness is not isolated. The nation is currently experiencing a measles epidemic, with the highest number of reported cases since 2000. As of Friday, there were 38 cases in California.