Lives of more than 1,000 students and faculty at UCLA and California State University in Los Angeles were overturned over the past days as authorities hurried to contain a probable measles outbreak.
Dr Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said that 628 people were still under separate quarantine at Cal State LA as of Friday morning, and another 46 in isolation at UCLA, and those are just the people the department has been able to diagnose. For everyone who visited the North Library on the Cal State LA campus between 11 a.m and 3 p.m on April 11 a blanket quarantine has been liberated. Those people are being asked to self-identify, stay at home and keep in touch to public health authorities to check on their immunization status.
Perfectly aware that the infectious diseases can span at an incredible speed within a student population, numerous university are preparing for such events. Georgetown University, Gostin said that it’s preparing for its annual ‘pandemic preparedness simulation’ in which they examine what might happen if an infectious disease is identified on their campus.
Quarantine as an effective option
Rebecca Katz, director of the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University said that using quarantines to help in controlling an outbreak is a critical public health alternative, being one of the strongest tools in the public health tool kit.
Actions can differ for those who refuse to cooperate: from issuing a self-isolation order to check in once a day through the internet, ‘to putting a tracking device on somebody, to placing an armed guard outside of their home’, Katz explained.
Even though the threat of measles is a new test, colleges have encountered situations like this before. The H1N1 flu pandemic of 2009 to 2010 spread through schools and universities like a wildfire. Schools were pressed to close for a period of time but later the CDC urged the students and faculty to rather isolate at home.
In the meantime, experts forecast that more schools will see outbreaks like the one at UCLA and Cal State LA, and as public health officials are rushing to identify everyone who might be at risk, quarantines are a good option.