Two relatives of the UC Berkeley student who contracted measles earlier this month have also come down with the illness, Contra Costa Health Services confirmed this week.
Bay Area public health officials notified the public about a possible measles exposure from Feb. 4 to Feb. 7 after the student identified with measles attended class and commuted to school on BART from home in Contra Costa prior to his diagnosis.
Health officials recommend that anyone who used BART on those days should remain vigilant for symptoms of measles through this weekend.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease whose symptoms include high fever, runny nose, coughing and watery red eyes. The disease spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Neither the student nor his sick relatives were vaccinated against measles.
“People who aren’t immunized are very likely to get measles if they are exposed to the virus,“ said Erika Jenssen, chief of the Communicable Disease Programs with CCHS. “This really underscores the importance of everyone getting vaccinated.”
Both of the student's relatives are men in their 20s and 30s. According to CCHS, because they voluntarily quarantined in their homes after the student was diagnosed, health officials have not identified any others exposed to measles by these cases.
According to CCHS, the UC Berkeley student likely became infected during a recent trip to the Philippines.
Health officials are urging anyone who has not been immunized against measles to receive the MMR vaccine, consult their health care provider or check their health record if they are unsure about their immunization status.
Small but unusual outbreaks of measles, tuberculosis and an extremely rare polio-like disease in several regions across California have set off concerns about the risks of exposure. All the infectious disease reports are actively being investigated, and California health officials say it is sheer coincidence that they arose at the same time.
California Department of Public Health's chief of the communicable disease control division, James Watt, assessed each of the diseases and offered his tips about how to stay healthy:
Even as the number of flu-related fatalities is falling in the state, public health officials warn that measles cases are on the rise.
The California Department of Public Health had confirmed 15 measles cases statewide as of Feb. 21, four in the San Francisco Bay area.
Two people were reported infected with the virus in Contra Costa County, one in Alameda County and one in San Mateo County. The UC Berkeley student was one of the Contra Costa County cases, but officials did not say if the other victims were infected by that person.
Stanford University researchers announced this week that a very rare, polio-like disease appeared in more than a dozen California children within the past year, and each of them suffered paralysis to one or more arms or legs. But public health officials haven't identified any common causes connecting the cases.
Stanford University researchers are studying the illness, and doctors warned this week that any child showing a sudden onset of weakness in the limbs or symptoms of paralysis should be immediately seen by a doctor.
Watt added his department routinely monitors for about 80 rare diseases, so such new strains often come their attention.
"At this point we don't see any cause for concern that this is of significant impact to the public at large,'' Watt said.
Sacramento County public health officials announced this week that a Northern California high school student was diagnosed with the lung disease tuberculosis. The Grant Union High School student was reportedly receiving medical care and letters were being sent to parents of students who may have been exposed.
Tuberculosis, also called TB, is passed through the air, usually when someone is coughing, laughing, singing or sneezing. It can also lie dormant for a period of time, so there may be no way to tell how the student was infected.
TB cases are not atypical in California, given that the state is home to many people who travel across the globe, as well as a large immigrant population, Watt said.
As for how to stay healthy, Watt offered age-old advice: look after yourself.
"We have had a couple of things that happened to pop up around the same time, but what I really want folks to do is take the kinds of commonsense wellness steps that we all know well,'' he said.
Information from the Associated Press was included in this report.