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Travel Fueling California's Measles Outbreak; UCLA Students Quarantined

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF/AP) -- Measles cases are on the rise in 11 California counties including San Francisco and are being fueled by exposure to the disease during overseas travel among other factors, state health officials announced Thursday.

A quarantine order was issued Thursday for hundreds of students and staff at two Los Angeles universities who may have been exposed to measles and either have not been vaccinated or can't verify that they have immunity.

The University of California, Los Angeles, said that as of Wednesday there were 119 students and 8 faculty members under quarantine. Seventy-one students and 127 staff members are quarantined at California State University, Los Angeles after a possible measles exposure at a campus library, school officials said.

UCLA said some people could remain in quarantines for up to 48 hours before they prove immunity. A few may need to remain in quarantine for up to seven days, officials said.

Dr. Karen Smith, director of the California Department of Public Health, told reporters during a conference call that the state recorded 38 measles cases as of Thursday, versus 11 around the same time last year.

ALSO READ: U.S. Measles Cases Hit Highest Mark In 25 Years

California's largest outbreak was in Butte County where it had spread to 16 people. Six new cases have been reported recently in Los Angeles including one at UCLA while others have caught the illness in San Francisco and Sacramento.

State health officials said of the 2019 cases, 14 cases were in international travelers, 22 cases were due to spread from travelers to persons in California, and 2 cases are of unknown source. The international travel associated with the California cases include India, Cambodia, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam and the Ukraine.

"We are very focused right now on the people who are at risk of bringing measles back to California — that is the unvaccinated travelers," Smith said.

Fortunately, officials said, the state has a high vaccination rate that has prevented a much larger outbreak like in New York state.

""Overall, California has a relatively high vaccination rate for measles," said Smith. "Approximately 95 percent of all children entering kindergarten in California have received the necessary two doses of measles vaccine."

"Our vaccination rates have helped to stop the spread of measles in California," she added. "However, as evidenced by the outbreaks to date, the remaining unvaccinated and under vaccinated Californians are at risk."

However, Smith warned that it would be easy for the disease to gain a larger foothold in California.

"Children are very, very good at transmitting diseases, particularly diseases like measles," Smith said. "Every person with measles, if they're in an unvaccinated population, will spread it to 10 other people.... Once that starts to happen, we can't stop it easily."

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday that there has been 695 cases of measles reported from 22 states. This is the greatest number of cases reported in the United States since measles was eliminated from this country in 2000.

"This current outbreak is deeply troubling and I call upon all healthcare providers to assure patients about the efficacy and safety of the measles vaccine, said CDC Director Robert Redfield. "And, I encourage all Americans to adhere to CDC vaccine guidelines in order to protect themselves, their families, and their communities from measles and other vaccine preventable diseases."

The high number of cases in 2019 is primarily the result of a few large outbreaks – one in Washington State and two large outbreaks in New York that started in late 2018. The outbreaks in New York City and New York state are among the largest and longest lasting since measles elimination in 2000. The longer these outbreaks continue, the greater the chance measles will again get a sustained foothold in the United States.

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