By
msnbc.com contributor
updated 8/22/2011 3:37:13 PM ET 2011-08-22T19:37:13

Passengers riding on an Amtrak train headed to Virginia from Boston last week may have been exposed to measles, according health officials.

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The passenger, who was visiting the United States on vacation, had some symptoms when he boarded the Amtrak Northeast Regional Train #171 on Aug. 17 in Philadelphia. But he didn’t know the cause until he sought care from a doctor in Virginia later, said Dr. Keri Hall, director of the Virginia Department of Health.

Once the passenger was diagnosed, his doctor reported the case to the department of health, which is trying to warn the other passengers. Amtrak wasn't available to comment on how many passengers were on the train.

The incident is the latest in a spate of cases where an unvaccinated traveler exposed others to measles. In February, an unvaccinated 27-year-old New Mexico woman with measles flew through three U.S. airports. Eight cases in Florida were tied to people who'd traveled overseas.

“The vast majority of people in the U.S. are immune to measles due to a very successful vaccine campaign,” said Hall. But measles cases have been on the rise in recent years and the U.S. is on track to have more cases this year than any other in a decade .

Those who were on the Amtrak train who haven't been vaccinated or who didn’t have the disease as a child should watch for early symptoms, which initially can include fever, runny nose, red and watery eyes and cough. Later, the hallmark blotchy red rash develops starting on the head, then moving to the face and then down to the rest of the body, Hall said. “In rare cases serious complications can occur, and those can include pneumonia, ear infections or even more rarely inflammation of the brain.”

There is an incubation period for the virus, Hall said. That means that anyone who is going to come down with measles will develop symptoms sometime between Aug. 24 through Sept. 7.

“If you have symptoms you should see your health provider,” Hall said. “And you should let the provider’s office know ahead of time that you might have measles so they can take you into a room so the rest of the patients won’t be exposed.”

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