Hundreds of 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 at Los Angeles said Thursday that a student infected with measles attended classes at two campus buildings on April 2, 4 and 9. He did not enter any other buildings while on campus, but the school 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 82 faculty members and students who will remain quarantined until 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 at Los Angeles also alerted its students and staff of a potential measles exposure that took place at a campus library on April 11 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Those at the library during that time were asked to provide immunization records or be checked for immunity at the health center, California State 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 immunizations 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.
[ How does measles spread? Do I need another MMR vaccine shot? How dangerous is measles? FAQ on the outbreaks. ]
The orders come amid a surge of measles outbreaks across the country — a reported 695 cases overall spanning 22 states — the highest number in a single year since the disease was declared eliminated in 2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Wednesday.
In a statement late 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 California have prevented small outbreaks from proliferating.
Lena H. Sun contributed to this report.
This story has been updated.
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