Administrators at San Luis Obispo area universities are on alert after an outbreak of measles was reported at a pair of Los Angeles County schools last week.
“Currently, 45 students remain under quarantine orders and one faculty member,” LA County Public Health Dir. Barbara Ferrer said of the UCLA campus at a Friday press conference.
Ferrer announced a reduction in the number of people quarantined at UCLA as a result of two measles outbreaks, one at UCLA, the other at Cal State L.A.
“One of those cases did travel internationally prior to coming down with measles, the other case actually acquired measles here locally,” Ferrer said.
While the number of people quarantined at UCLA has gone down, officials say 656 students and staffers are still under quarantine at Cal State L.A.
These patients are just two of the 38 cases of measles recorded so far this year across eight California counties: LA, Placer, Shasta/Butte, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, and Santa Clara.
The disease is highly contagious and the health department reports that nine out of 10 unvaccinated people exposed to measles will contract the disease.
“People who have really strong feelings about not getting vaccinated continue to find a way to enter our public or private school system without the required vaccines,” San Luis Obispo County Health Officer Penny Borenstein said.
That’s true of Cal Poly, where University spokesman Matt Lazier confirms some students avoided the mandatory measles vaccines with a medical or religious exemption.
“Cal Poly’s Health Services is monitoring the UCLA matter and, more generally, maintains a vigilant awareness of measles and the potential risk the illness could pose to campus,” Lazier said. “Should the university identify a case of measles, Health and Wellbeing would work very closely with county Public Health to protect the campus and local community.”
For the classmates of those students, the prospect of an outbreak at Cal Poly like the ones at UCLA and Cal State is concerning.
“I’d like to be able to live in a campus where it’s not something to worry about,” Cal Poly Junior Daniel Klem said. “You’d hope everyone gets vaccinated.”
“You’re potentially exposing other people who potentially have no defense against such things,” Cal Poly Senior Austin Kurth said.
Should an outbreak occur at Cal Poly, Lazier said students without the vaccine could be temporarily excluded from campus.
But at California community colleges, like Cuesta, students and staff are not required to vaccinate against measles.
“We don’t have dormitories so that definitely reduces the risk of exposure for certain communicable diseases that you look at that spread rapidly across college settings,” Cuesta College Student Health Dir. Nicole Johnson said. “But I think that we could see change on the future on this.”
A recent revision to California’s State University System policy that takes effect next year would allow exemptions only on a medical basis.