CDC Director On Measles Outbreak: 'We Think This Is A Very Serious Situation'06:05
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A student enters Franz Hall at University of California, Los Angeles, on April 25, 2019, in Los Angeles. Hundreds of students and staff at two Los Angeles universities, including UCLA, have been placed under quarantine because they may have been exposed to measles and either have not been vaccinated or cannot verify that they are immune. (Jae C. Hong/AP)
A student enters Franz Hall at University of California, Los Angeles, on April 25, 2019, in Los Angeles. Hundreds of students and staff at two Los Angeles universities, including UCLA, have been placed under quarantine because they may have been exposed to measles and either have not been vaccinated or cannot verify that they are immune. (Jae C. Hong/AP)

Hundreds of people were under quarantine Friday at the campuses of Cal State University Los Angeles and the University of California Los Angeles, after people infected with measles came in contact with hundreds of students and staff.

More than 700 measles cases have been reported across 22 states in the U.S. — an outbreak that's now the largest since the disease was eradicated in 2000.

"We think this is a very serious situation," Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tells Here & Now's Peter O'Dowd. "It does have the potential to regain a foothold in the United States, and then put us back to have to renew efforts to once again try to eradicate it."

It's not uncommon for universities to ask measles patients to stay in their rooms, Redfield says. But the highly contagious disease is hard to combat.

"There are other vaccine-preventable diseases that we could see re-emerging if people don't take advantage of the vaccines that are available."

Dr. Robert Redfield

"The challenge is that it's highly infectious three, four days prior to getting any symptoms and the rash," he says.

President Trump encouraged people to get vaccinated Friday, speaking at the White House in response to questions about the outbreak and the impact unvaccinated people are having on its spread. But in 2014, he tweeted a conspiracy theory about vaccination.

Redfield says he's happy Trump has reversed course and voiced support for people getting their measles shot and other vaccinations.

"I think it's very important. We can say — and I can say as the director of the CDC — that vaccination does not cause autism. It's really important," Redfield says. "I think the key message is that right now about 94% of parents vaccinate their children. We want to get that last 6% to vaccinate their children."

This measles outbreak could ultimately be a canary in the coal mine, Redfield says.

"There are other vaccine-preventable diseases that we could see re-emerging if people don't take advantage of the vaccines that are available to prevent these infections that once were commonplace," he says.


Jill Ryan produced this interview and edited it for broadcast with Tinku Ray. Jack Mitchell adapted it for the web.

This segment aired on April 26, 2019.

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