U.S. measles outbreak triggers quarantine at two Los Angeles universities

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A nationwide measles outbreak has led health officials to quarantine dozens of people at two Los Angeles universities, officials said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: A vial of the measles, mumps, and rubella virus (MMR) vaccine is pictured at the International Community Health Services clinic in Seattle, Washington, U.S., March 20, 2019. Picture taken March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson/File Photo

The quarantine affects the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and California State University, Los Angeles (Cal State LA) and comes as the United States battles the highest number of measles cases since the country declared the virus eliminated in 2000.

The people ordered quarantined at two California campuses were exposed to measles and could not provide evidence they had been immunized against the disease, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said in a statement.

The United States has confirmed 695 cases of measles, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday, with many of those cases in the states of New York and Washington.

California health officials have said the state has confirmed 38 measles cases, pointing to a new challenge in their work to contain the disease which includes the quarantines at Cal State LA and UCLA.

“Both universities are assisting with the implementation of quarantine orders and determining how best to support students who must be quarantined and who live on campus,” the Department of Public Health said in a statement.

The quarantine at Cal State LA is related to a measles exposure believed to have occurred in a library on April 11, the university said in a statement.

The quarantine affects 198 Cal State LA employees who were at the library, including 71 employees who are also students, the university statement said.

At UCLA, 119 students and eight staff members who were exposed to measles at the campus earlier this month and could not provide proof of immunity were ordered quarantined on Wednesday, the university said in a statement.

Since then, officials have released 45 people from the UCLA quarantine after establishing they had immunity to measles.

U.S. public health officials have blamed the nationwide outbreak, which coincides with a global rise in the prevalence of the disease, in part on the spread of misinformation about the safety of vaccines.

Although the disease was eliminated from the country in 2000, meaning the virus was no longer continually present year-round, outbreaks still happen via travelers coming from countries where measles is still common, the CDC says.

The virus can lead to deadly complications, but no measles deaths have been reported in the latest outbreaks.

(This story was refiled to give full name of UCLA paragraph 2)

Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis, editing by G Crosse

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