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Measles outbreak plagues colleges

Quarantines were issued at southern California universities after they were struck with a measles outbreak.

By Tate Coan, Online Editor, and Meg Taylor, News Editor

More than 1,000 students and staff members from UCLA and Cal State LA have been quarantined in attempts to prevent the spread of measles.

The quarantine was ordered April 25 at both of the public universities to staff, faculty and students who had been exposed to an active form of the disease and could not provide evidence of a measles vaccination. The people quarantined were ordered to stay home, avoid contact with others and notify public health officials if symptoms arise.

UCLA’s Dean of Students, Maria Blandizzi, sent out a text to possibly infected students stating, “You are receiving this text message because you have been exposed to measles, which is very contagious… UCLA does not have records proving that you have received your immunizations for measles, and per the LA Department of Public Health, you are mandated to isolate yourself until you can provide proof of immunization. If you have a roomate, you cannot isolate yourself in your apartment.”

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 on three days earlier this month, or a person with measles who visited a Cal State LA library on April 11, officials said.

Both of the universities are assisting in enforcing the order and “determining how best to support students who must be quarantined and who live on campus,” according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

The highly contagious disease is caused by a virus that can be spread through the air when coughing or sneezing and can stay in the air or on contaminated surfaces for up to two hours. Symptoms include: fever, cough, runny nose, watery eyes and the famous red spots rash. The disease can be spread up to four days before and four days after the appearance of symptoms.

The lethal disease has been slowly making its way back into existence since the rise of the anti-vaccination movement. Measles deaths were up by 22 percent in 2017 and fear of vaccines were among the factors leading to less vaccinations according to a UNICEF study.

This fear is said to originate from a study published by Andrew Wakefield, a British surgeon, that suggested that the measles, mumps, rubella (M.M.R.) vaccine increases autism. The conclusions of that study have been proven false due to procedural errors, ethical violations and financial conflicts of interest, according to Wakefield has since lost his medical license and the paper has been retracted.

Southern California is only seeing a small part of the largest outbreak of measles in the United States since the disease was declared eliminated nationwide in 2000, according to a statement by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on April 24.

Of the 764 cases in the U.S., 38 are in the state of California, nearly tripling the amount of cases recorded at this time last year, according to the California Department of Public Health. Fourteen of the cases from this year’s outbreak were with international travelers and 22 cases were spread from travelers to California citizens.

“Vaccination is the only way to ensure you and your family members will not get measles,” said the director of the California Department of Public Health, Dr. Karen Smith. “Many countries are currently experiencing widespread measles activity. Make sure you and your family are fully vaccinated before traveling internationally.”

There have been no cases of the measles at any of the LACCD colleges or facilities, according to an email May 3 sent out from the district. However, if there were and Valley College students needed a vaccine, they cannot receive one on campus; Valley has never carried the M.M.R. vaccine.

“If you did need it, then you would have to look at a different location or different clinics or if students have health insurance they would have to go through their primary healthcare provider,” according to the Student Health Center.

The M.M.R. shot is provided by many CVS pharmacies for close to $100 if lacking insurance. The vaccination is covered on insurance plans and can be obtained through a primary care physicians.

People who have had two doses of the M.M.R. shot or who were born before 1957 are considered immune, according to the CDC. They advise that women who are pregnant, anyone who is moderately ill, and people with tuberculosis or with any condition that causes them to bleed or bruise easily should avoid the vaccine.

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