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Measles Exposure

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A University of California, Berkeley, student with measles could have exposed thousands of people to the disease. The 20-year-old was attending college classes and taking mass transit in the days before he was diagnosed.

The disease spreads in the air through breathing, coughing or sneezing. "Measles is the most contagious of the vaccine preventable diseases. So if you aren't vaccinated and exposed to somebody who has measles, you have better than a 90% chance of getting the disease," says Dr. Greg Wallace of the Centers for Disease Control.

Symptoms start to appear about 7-14 days after a person has been infected and include a cough, runny nose, and red, watery eyes then a rash and fever develop.

Each year there are about 60 cases of measles, but last year 189 people had the disease - the second largest number since the disease was eliminated in 2000.

Public health officials say the California college student was not vaccinated and may have been infected during a recent trip out of the country which is often how the disease arrives back in the U.S.

"If those importations get into a community where there are pockets of people who aren't vaccinated it can lead to outbreaks."

Health officials say someone who is not vaccinated can catch the virus hours after an infected person leaves the area.

Children are usually vaccinated against measles when they are 12-15 months old and again when they are between 4-6 years old.

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