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 (April 25).
The quarantines affect 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 the two California campuses were exposed to measles and could not provide evidence they had been immunised against the disease, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said in a statement.
The US has confirmed 695 cases of measles, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 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 UCLA and Cal State LA.
"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 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.
US 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 travellers 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.