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Student with measles rode Amtrak train from New York Penn Station; U.S. cases top 100

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Posted at 2:19 PM, Jan 31, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-02 10:09:41-05

A college student with the measles rode an Amtrak train from Penn Station in New York City up to Albany, officials warned Friday.

The northeast corridor passing through Penn Station is the busiest railroad in the United States. The student, who attends Bard College, is now in isolation.

"Anyone traveling on Amtrak train #283, which left Penn Station in NYC at 1:20 p.m. and traveled to Albany and then on to Niagara Falls on January 25, 2015, and who is not immune to measles or not sure of their measles immunity, should contact their primary care physician if they become ill with fever," said the New York State Department of Health in a statement.

People are considered immune to the measles if they had two doses of the MMR vaccine (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella), if they were born before 1957 or if they previously had the measles.

The incident is separate from a measles outbreak linked to Disneyland in California. That outbreak now includes 84 confirmed cases from people living in 14 states. 

The U.S. is in the middle of a spike in measles cases, mostly among the unvaccinated. The total number of measles cases in the U.S. has passed 100 this year. In 2014, more than 600 people were diagnosed with the measles. The disease was declared "eliminated" 15 years ago.

Measles is highly contagious. It spreads through the air when an infected person breathes, coughs or sneezes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is possible to catch the measles up to two hours after an infected person has left the area.

Some people who have been vaccinated can still get the measles. Children too young to be vaccinated and people with compromised immune systems are most at risk of infection.

THE MEASLES
- Measles is a respiratory virus that’s spread through coughing and sneezing.
- Measles is highly contagious. If one person has the measles, 90 percent of the unvaccinated people close to them will become infected.
- Symptoms start as a runny nose, cough, red eyes and a sore throat.
- About two or three days later, little white spots appear inside the mouth.
- Within three to five days, a rash of flat red spots spreads all over the body.

COMPLICATIONS
- Children younger than 5 and adults older than 20 are the most likely to have complications from measles.
- Serious complications are pneumonia and brain swelling. The swelling can cause deafness or mental retardation.
- Two in every 1,000 children who gets measles dies from it.
- Worldwide, 122,000 people die from the measles each year.

VACCINATION
- The MMR vaccine, which covers measles, mumps and rubella, has reduced measles cases by 99 percent since it was introduced in 1971.
- The CDC recommends that children get their first dose of the MMR vaccine at around 12 months and the second dose at around 4 years.
- Even with the MMR vaccine, some people are still at risk of the measles. That includes young children who have not yet finished the MMR regimen, adults who cannot take the vaccine due to an immune system issue and those who may have lost immunity over time.
Source: CDC

Gavin Stern is a national digital producer for the Scripps National Desk.