Health officials in San Francisco have warned Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) users of a possible measles outbreak facing this very populated California city. The warning came out after an infected individual was identified on Thursday.
Though the name of the individual is unknown at this time, sources have confirmed that they are a student at the University of California Berkley. The student had recently spent time studying abroad in Asia, where it is suspected he acquired the virus. Since the individual had not been inoculated for measles, he was able to carry and later transmit it. Health officials are warning that any passenger of the BART between February 4 and February 7 may have been exposed. The student rode the trains in the early and late parts of the day, commuting to school from his home in Contra Costa County.
The measles virus is almost extinct in the United States. Most people are inoculated for the disease as children, helping them to build immunity. However, young children who have yet to complete the process of immunization are at a high risk to acquire the disease. Adults who have not been immunized also carry a high risk factor. One of the highest concentrations of children who are not immune exists in the San Francisco area.
California is facing this measles outbreak because the virus itself is very contagious. An individual who has been infected with the virus is contagious from four days before the symptoms appear, to four days after they have gone. Unfortunately for Bart riders, direct contact with the sick individual is not needed to contract the virus. It is spread through coughing and sneezing. If an infected person coughs on to a surface, or in to the air, the virus remains alive for up to two hours on its own. All it takes is for someone to touch a surface that has been coughed on or breath infected air for them to acquire the virus. 90 percent of individuals who are not immune will contract the virus if exposed to it.
If a person in infected by the Measles virus, it usually will take one to two weeks for the symptoms to manifest. The common symptoms of measles include fever, cough, runny nose, and red watering eyes. In addition, the infected will also suffer a blotchy rash that covers their body, as well as a feeling of tiredness and ache within their bodies. Symptoms usually begin like that of a common cold, with the fever, sore throat, and runny nose. Within a week, the rash will break out, usually from the top down. Patients may also suffer from tiny, painful, white spots in their mouth, called Koplik spots. After several days of this painful and irritating rash, it will slowly fade, as will the rest of the symptoms.
The measles is one of the most contagious viruses in the world. Luckily, most are immune. For those that aren’t, they face a series of bad, irritating days of agony. Many who are infected will also suffer from ear infections and possibly pneumonia. Most patients will recover from any and all of these symptoms within a few weeks. Only one out of every 500 patients will die from the measles.
So, while California is facing a possible measles outbreak, optimism still prevails. If you rode the BART during the early part of February be aware of the symptoms, and stay away from children. However, know that even if you fall victim to the measles, in three weeks you’ll leave them behind forever. Once you have had them, you can never get them again.
By Chris Chisam