Measles warning in Bay Area: Infected student on BART, UC Berkeley campus

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si vis pacem para bellum
May 4, 2006
BERKELEY -- Health officials are warning Bay Area residents about possible exposure to measles after a student diagnosed with the illness used BART to travel between the UC Berkeley campus and his home in Contra Costa County last week.

The measles virus can stay in the air for up to two hours after a person coughs or sneezes. The unidentified student rode between the El Cerrito del Norte BART station and the Berkeley station in the morning and the evening every day between Feb. 4 and 7.

People who are vaccinated or have already had measles are unlikely to catch the illness, even if they had contact with a contagious person, officials said. The two-part vaccination for measles, mumps and rubella is very common, though not universal, in childhood, officials said Thursday.

Public health officials confirmed that the student had not been vaccinated and was likely infected with measles during a recent trip to Asia. Before being diagnosed, the student spent time in Berkeley, attending classes and using BART on several days.

"Measles is a very serious viral illness and very contagious," said Erika Jenssen, communicable disease program chief for Contra Costa County Public Health.

The student is now recovering at home and not attending classes. His is the second case of measles diagnosed in Contra Costa County in the last five years.

Measles symptoms can begin one to three weeks after exposure and can include high fever, runny nose, coughing and watery red eyes. A rash may develop on the face and neck two to three days after the fever begins and can spread down the body. The rash usually lasts five or six days. An infected person is contagious for several days before and after the rash appears.

Serious but rare complications can include ear infections, pneumonia or encephalitis.

"Measles can progress to death, but that is very rare," said Janet Berreman, health officer for the city of Berkeley.

UC Berkeley health officials said they had contacted about 100 students who were in class with the infected student. University Health Services has ordered about 300 doses of the MMR vaccine from the state and will make them available for any students who have not been vaccinated.

The MMR vaccine is "strongly recommended" for students entering UC Berkeley but not required, according to Brad Buchman, medical director for University Health Services.

So far, the agencies have identified no other measles infections related to this case, according to Kate Fowlie of Contra Costa Health Services.