Los Angeles County health officials have quarantined a number of students and staff at UCLA and Cal State Los Angeles possibly exposed to measles amid a nationwide outbreak of the once-eradicated disease.
Officials also announced a new case of measles in a person who flew in and out of LAX while infectious and they are seeking to find more than 1,500 people potentially exposed by five others with confirmed cases of the contagious infection.
Cal State LA said about 200 workers at a campus library — which include some students — have been sent home “under quarantine orders and told to stay home and avoid contact with others as much as possible.”
UCLA announced the quarantines Wednesday in a message from Chancellor Gene Block:
“On Monday, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LACDPH) notified UCLA that one of our students had contracted the measles. We were also informed that the student had attended classes at Franz Hall and Boelter Hall on three days — April 2, 4 and 9 — while contagious. The student did not enter any other buildings while on campus.
“… Upon learning of this incident, UCLA immediately identified and notified more than 500 students, faculty and staff with whom the student may have come into contact or who may otherwise been exposed. They were also provided with detailed information about treatment and prevention.
“Most of those individuals have since been cleared, but we are still awaiting medical records from 119 students and eight faculty members to determine whether they are immune to the measles. As a result, LACDPH has decided to quarantine those individuals until their immunity is determined. We expect that those notified will be quarantined for approximately 24-48 hours until their proof of immunity is established. A few may need to remain in quarantine for up to seven days. We have arranged for those who live on campus to be cared for at UCLA while they are quarantined.”
In a followup statement on Thursday, UCLA said that it has established proof of immunity for and released from quarantine 43 of the 119 students, and two of the eight faculty members, reducing the total number still under quarantine to 82.
At Cal State LA, county health officials said the exposure happened at a library. Other than the 200 staff who work at the library and are under quarantine, up to 2,000 people are estimated to visit the library daily, so health officials said they are also working to identify anyone that may have been exposed.
The latest case was confirmed in a person who arrived on April 18, was in the arrival area of Tom Bradley International Terminal that afternoon, and departed from Gate 37A, Terminal 3 later that night.
Persons who may have been on-site at the date and time for any of the below locations, may be at risk of developing measles for up to 21 days after being exposed.
“We’re very worried about measles,” Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
She said the county is taking a three-pronged approach to dealing with the infection in the face of outbreaks in New York, Northern California and around the world, which includes efforts to reach out to everyone exposed and, if they are not vaccinated against measles, asking them to stay home for 21 days to avoid spreading the infection.
Ninety percent of people who are not immunized will come down with the measles if they come into contact with an infected individual, Ferrer said.
But the double-dose vaccine is highly effective and lasts a lifetime for those who have been immunized.
Anyone who develops measles symptoms should contact their doctor by phone before visiting their doctor’s office.
Infected people can infect those around them before they have symptoms and know they are infected, and the measles virus can be transmitted from one person to another up to four days before the onset of a rash, health officials said.
Common symptoms associated with measles include fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes and a rash which usually appears 10 to 21 days after exposure. Even doctors aren’t particularly familiar with the symptoms because the infection has not been widespread for many years.
Reaching out to health care providers and residents countywide are the other two parts of the county’s approach to prevent further spread of measles.
Free vaccines for uninsured and under-insured individuals are on offer at the county’s 14 public health clinics.
Ferrer said her department was coordinating with LAX officials to make sure that the word about free vaccines got out to 7,000 workers at LAX, identified as a point of potential exposure on April 1.
Health officials were also reaching out to UCLA and Cal State Los Angeles to offer free vaccines to students without means.
The majority of the victims were unvaccinated.
“We will likely see additional measles cases in Los Angeles County, so it is important if you or someone you know has the symptoms of measles or has been exposed to measles to contact your health-care provider by phone right away before seeking treatment,” Los Angeles County Health Officer Muntu Davis said. “The best way to protect yourself and to prevent the spread of measles is to get the measles immunization, with two doses of measles immunization being about 97-percent effective at preventing measles.”
The following locations have previously been identified as points of potential measles exposure:
- LAX, Tom Bradley International Terminal, Gate 218 on April 1 from 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
- UCLA’s Franz Hall on April 2, 4,and 9 and Boelter Hall on April 2 and 9 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m;
- Cal State Los Angeles’ main library, on April 11 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.;
- El Pollo Loco restaurant, 1939 Verdugo Blvd., La Canada Flintridge, on April 11 from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.; and
- El Sauz Tacos, 4432 San Fernando Road, Glendale, on April 13 from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.
On Tuesday, Supervisor Hilda Solis previewed a motion recommended support for state legislation to boost school immunization requirements by standardizing exemptions statewide.
“In 2000, measles was declared eliminated in North America. Since January 2019, however, there have been over 600 reported cases in the United States,” she said. “Unvaccinated people, especially children and pregnant women, are at the highest risk for measles and complications from measles.”
She plans to formally submit the motion next week.
— City News Service