S.F. Measles Alert Is a Reminder That Epidemics Love Trains Too

An infected passenger rode Bay Area Rapid Transit multiple times last week.

(AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)

Public-transit-riding germaphobes have a new reason to squirm thanks to San Francisco health officials putting BART riders on alert after confirming a measles-infected passenger from Contra Costa County rode the system multiple times February 4th through 6th.

Officials stressed that vaccinated residents shouldn’t be concerned with contracting measles, though unvaccinated commuters could be at high risk. It doesn’t help that the passenger, a Silicon Valley worker, seemed to be pretty busy prior to their diagnosis. In addition to traveling the hour-long round-trip commute between Lafayette Station and Montgomery Street Station three times last week, the person also dined at a downtown Chinatown restaurant.

The high alert comes at a time when origins of California’s measles outbreak continue to be a mystery and the connection between urbanization and epidemic is greater than ever. Last year, an Ebola-infected doctor’s path in New York put transit riders in that city on alert.

“Measles is circulating in the Bay Area and we don’t know yet where this person was exposed,” Erika Jenssen, communicable disease program chief with Contra Costa Public Health, said in a statement. “The measles outbreak in California highlights the need for people to be vaccinated, and this is just another example of how interconnected our region is and how important it is for everyone to be up to date on their immunizations.”

BART offered passengers this warning:

“Because the measles virus can stay in the air for up to two hours and BART cars circulate throughout the Bay Area, anyone who used the transit system during that time could have potentially exposed to the virus. Health officials urge anyone who shows symptoms of measles to contract their health care provider immediately.”

If it’s any consolation, BART promises the use of “industrial-strength” cleaning disinfectant each night.

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Marielle Mondon is an editor and freelance journalist in Philadelphia. Her work has appeared in Philadelphia City Paper, Wild Magazine, and PolicyMic. She previously reported on communities in Northern Manhattan while earning an M.S. in journalism from Columbia University.

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Tags: public transportationsan franciscotransit agencieshealthcare

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