News of measles on BART reinforces calls for vaccinations 

click to enlarge Riders wait for the Bart in San Francisco's Powell Street Station. - GABRIELLE LURIE/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Gabrielle Lurie/Special to the S.F. Examiner
  • Riders wait for the Bart in San Francisco's Powell Street Station.
With a cough and a fright, the measles is traveling around the Bay Area. And while most people are vaccinated and safe, high-risk groups have cause to be concerned.

On Wednesday, officials with Contra Costa Health Services revealed that a LinkedIn employee infected with measles commuted to and from San Francisco via BART for three days last week. The person, who was not identified, also ate at a San Francisco restaurant.

“The most important piece of information is that if you are vaccinated, you are not at risk,” said Rachael Kagan, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Health. There have been no confirmed cases of measles in San Francisco, Kagan added.

But those at high risk — infants, pregnant women and those not vaccinated — should be concerned, doctors warned.

The measles-carrying BART rider potentially exposed tens of thousands of people to the disease, which the Center for Disease Control and Prevention says is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus, spread through the air through coughing and sneezing. Symptoms include a fever, runny nose, cough, red eyes and sore throat, followed by a rash that often begins in the face and spreads throughout the body.

Infants are typically not vaccinated until they are 12 months old, with a second vaccination given at age 5. Some children are not vaccinated due to parental choice.

“If you’re not vaccinated, measles is one of our most infectious of infectious diseases,” Dr. Lisa Winston, hospital epidemiologist at San Francisco General Hospital, told The San Francisco Examiner. Epidemiology is the study of disease patterns in populations.

“It is a disease you can get by casual contact on BART,” she said. “If you have no immunity, even just breathing the air can be enough to give you measles.”

The infected BART rider used the Lafayette and Montgomery Street stations. About 25,000 people ride that line in the morning commute and another 25,000 in the evening commute, BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost told The Examiner. The air on BART is circulated, potentially carrying the disease in trains for two hours.

Dr. Lee Atkinson-McEvoy, director of pediatrics primary care at UC San Francisco Medical Center’s Mount Zion campus, said measles can be identified through blood and urine tests only when symptoms appear.

“I would not tell people they should be immediately panicked,” she said.

An infected person is contagious for several days before and after the rash appears. Anyone with an infant aboard BART between Feb. 4 and Feb. 7 should see their pediatrician, she said.

As of five days ago, California had 99 reported cases of measles, 14 of which had been reported in the Bay Area, according to the health department.

Parents in the Bay Area are worried about measles.

Genoa Gonzalez, an Oakland resident, was selling Girl Scout Cookies with her daughter, Cassera, 7, outside the Montgomery Street station Wednesday. She said Cassera was vaccinated, but she worried for the families who were not.

Gonzalez said five families at her daughter’s El Cerrito school refused to be vaccinated, even obtaining attorneys to defend their right to not vaccinate. “I think it’s poor parenting,” Gonzalez said.

And Tuesday, a nanny summoned paramedics to Dolores Park after reportedly hearing a woman at the park mention her child had measles.

Francis Zamora, a spokesman for the Department of Emergency Management, confirmed that the call took place. However, he said that when paramedics arrived they could not find a woman who matched the description.

The nanny’s employer, Amy Iacopi, said her 2-year-old daughter played on the same play equipment as the child whose mother claimed they had measles.

“I stripped and bathed our daughter, as well as ourselves, and asked the nanny go home and do the same,” Iacopi said.

The case has not been confirmed, but was referred to in a private posting in the Golden Gate Mothers Group’s online forum, the group confirmed. They would not share the posting due to privacy concerns.

Measles can be deadly if contracted. According to the Oxford Journal review “The Clinical Significance of Measles,” which reviewed data in the U.S. from 1987 to 2000, there were 177 reported deaths out of 67,000 cases of measles. That’s a one in 300 chance of death.

Officials with LinkedIn, a social network for professionals, said they were informed Tuesday about their employee’s measles diagnosis.

“The health and well-being of our employees is our absolute top priority, and we will take whatever steps are advised to ensure their safety and the safety of the general public,” the company said in a statement.

LinkedIn has roughly 1,000 employees in San Francisco, a spokeswoman told The Examiner.

The infected LinkedIn employee also spent time at E&O Kitchen and Bar on Sutter Street in San Francisco on the evening of Feb. 4, health officials said. Officials warned that patrons who visited the restaurant between 5:30 and 7 p.m. may have been exposed to measles.

Kagan said other diners should not worry, and that the risk for exposure only existed for the 90 minutes the infected person was in the restaurant. E&O General Manager Akop Paronyan told The Examiner he was worried negative media attention would hurt business.

“Our corn fritters have been around for 18 years and are very well-liked,” he said. “If anyone is stressed and vaccinated they should come by.”

About The Author

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

Born and raised in San Francisco, Fitzgerald Rodriguez was a staff writer at the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and now writes the S.F. Examiner's political column On Guard. He is also a transportation beat reporter covering pedestrians, Muni, BART, bikes, and anything with wheels.
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