A University of California Berkeley (UC Berkeley) student infected with measles has put tens of thousands of Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) riders at a risk of contracting the dreaded disease.

Health officials say that thousands of San Francisco Bay Area residents may have been exposed to measles recently when an unvaccinated UC student attended classes and used the BART travel system.

Contra Costa County's public health officials said that anyone who used BART from February 4 to February 7 during the morning or late evening commutes may have been exposed to the contagious virus. On February 12, the UC student was confirmed to have been affected by measles and is likely to have been infected by the disease while traveling to Asia.

In the U.S., most people are immune to measles either due to the vaccination that began in 1963 or because they had the disease previously. However, health officials say that their main worry is about children who are particularly vulnerable to the disease. Measles may cause seizures, permanent brain damage or deafness in children.

Home-grown cases of measles are supposed to have eradicated in the U.S. in 2000. However, the country has witnessed several outbreaks of the disease due to the import by travelers who bring back the disease from other countries where it remains very common.

Measles spreads through the air, when an infected person sneezes or sneezes but the measles vaccine is very effective in preventing the infection. However, health experts say that the Bay Area is one of the regions which is considered to have many unvaccinated children in the U.S.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are fewer than 60 cases of measles reported per year. However, in 2013, at least 175 cases were reported in the U.S. The contagious disease is also said to have killed 500 people in the country and has hospitalized about 48,000.

Bay Area health officials are in the process of reviewing the student's movements and notifying people who were in close contact with him. The health agencies have not identified any other person infected with measles related to the current case.

BART riders who think they were exposed to measles should try and identify symptoms such as high body temperature, watery eyes and runny nose. Anyone who appears to be ill due to these symptoms should seek medical attention as soon as possible. 

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