Duoduo “Danny” Ying didn’t pay much attention to the UCLA chancellor’s school-wide memo that arrived in his email inbox last Wednesday. The note, also published on the school’s website, simply seemed to reiterate what he already knew: An unnamed student at the University of California at Los Angeles “had contracted the measles,” the chancellor wrote. Los Angeles County is one of several regions across the United States currently experiencing an outbreak of measles. The number of cases in the country is the highest it’s been since 2000, when the disease was declared eliminated in the United States.
The unnamed UCLA student had, on three separate days a few weeks prior, attended classes while sick in two buildings on the south side of campus. Ying wasn’t overly worried about the incident—he knew he had gotten the measles vaccine.
The university, however, didn’t know that. Ying, 19, is a sophomore majoring in economics and business who, like most underclassmen, lives on “The Hill,” a student-housing village on the western side of campus. He is also enrolled in the same Econ 103 course, and was sitting in the same lecture hall, as his unknown classmate who brought the virus to campus, according to an alert he received early last week via the university’s student-health portal. In retrospect, Ying acknowledges that he must have glossed over a subsequent message from the Ashe Center, the student-health hub, that read, in part, “It appears that you may not have received the measles vaccine.”
While the university had quickly confirmed measles immunity for most of the 500 or so people who’d somehow come into contact with the student carrier, it failed to locate the necessary records for 119 students as well as several staff members. Responding to an initial request for comment, a UCLA spokesman directed me to statements and information posted on the university’s website; he subsequently declined to elaborate.