San Mateo resident with measles exposes La Mediterranee patrons, workers to virus

Alex Turney/File

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San Mateo County confirmed last week that an adult with measles visited Berkeley’s La Mediterranee on the evening of Feb. 20.

The individual, a San Mateo County resident, was at the restaurant on College Avenue from approximately 6:45 to 8 p.m. Given the two-hour life span of the highly contagious measles virus, patrons who were at the restaurant between 6:45 to 10 p.m. are in danger of exposure.

The individual also reportedly commuted on BART from Millbrae to the Civic Center station earlier that day, boarding at 4:30 p.m. and exiting about 5 p.m. BART officials believe that about 1,500 people got on board the exposed train between 4:30 and 7 p.m. They reiterated, however, that the risk of contracting measles by being exposed on BART is low.

This is the fourth measles case confirmed in San Mateo County since a statewide measles outbreak began in December 2014, and it is the 126th case statewide to have reached one of six Bay Area counties. Public health officials have confirmed six cases in Alameda County and are investigating many others.

Public health officials reached out to the owners of La Mediterranee, informing them of the exposure and ensuring that restaurant staff have taken sufficient health precautions. Ara Baghdassarian, manager of the cafe, said the staff respected how seriously the officials were taking the potential exposure and “were totally onboard” with their efforts.

Baghdassarian also expressed relief that none of his staff have yet to show symptoms and that all employees are, in fact, vaccinated.

With all staff immunized, the city has not issued any restrictions on the restaurant. Business, too, has not been affected, according to Baghdassarian, who said that staff quickly overcame the initial shock and that the restaurant was “just as busy this weekend as we normally are.”

In response to recent events, public officials continue to recommend two doses of the MMR vaccine, the first of which can be administered starting at 12 months of age, and the second being given as soon as 28 days after the first dose. Where risk of infection is eminent, the first dose can be administered at as early as six months.

Baghdassarian said he believes getting vaccinated against measles is an essential civic duty. His advocation echoes that of both the UC system and the public health officials, with San Mateo County Health Officer Dr. Scott Morrow saying he “strongly urge(s) everyone to get vaccinated and help stop the spread of measles.”

As of Sunday, San Mateo County has confirmed that the infected adult came into close contact with others in public places in only these locations.