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Apparent measles outbreak inside Chicago Police District

CIty does not consider CPD measles scare a public health crisis
CIty does not consider CPD measles scare a public health crisis 03:17

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Sunday morning as police briefed the media on a mass shooting that happened overnight, CBS 2 cameras stumbled upon a notice outside the 25th Police District some find concerning. It notified the community about an apparent measles outbreak inside the station, and added that those entering the building are putting themselves at risk. 

The notice stated, "This facility has been contaminated by a measles outbreak. By entering, you are agreeing to accept this risk." 

Sunday night, the city answered, telling CBS 2 they do not consider this a public health crisis.

When CBS 2 started asking questions about the situation, that notice was promptly taken down. Sunday night the city said a measles outbreak is unlikely but insisted that they are monitoring the situation. 

The city released the following statement: 

The Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) continues to consult with Cook County and community health partners on the health of new arrivals, and while precautions were taken this morning out of an abundance of caution, at this time measles is very unlikely.  Normal operations have resumed for the 25th police district station. It is important to note that due to high vaccination coverage, vaccine-preventable diseases like measles, mumps, rubella, polio, and varicella (chicken pox) are rare in the U.S. and most Chicagoans are protected through routine childhood vaccinations or in some cases through childhood infections. While this is a challenging situation, we do not consider this a public health crisis, and reports that migrants may be the source of disease spread in Chicago are inaccurate and can fuel xenophobia. The City is continuing to monitor the situation with our partners and providing appropriate guidance and services as needed.     

According to police sources, the sign, which CBS 2 first took note of Sunday morning, was posted after supervisors believed three cases of measles were reported inside the building. 

Sources say that a supervisor sent out a message to staff alerting them about the possible cases. It's unclear when exactly they happened. 

"It's not a disease to take lightly," said epidemiologist Dr. Katrine Wallace, with the University of Illinois at Chicago. 

After CBS 2 inquiries, a city spokesperson said precautions were taken but called a measles outbreak "very unlikely." 

Doctors say caution is necessary because measles is one of the world's most contagious diseases. It is spread by close or direct contact, through sneezing or coughing, and could cause a lot of health issues, including death, for those not vaccinated. It was eliminated in the United States in 2000, and cases have been sporadic among the unvaccinated. 

"You could have one to three out of 1,000 kids end up dying from measles, and it could also cause serious complications like brain swelling, which can cause permanent brain damage," Wallace said.  

According to one health professional CBS 2 spoke with, outside of the standard notice of the outbreak, the public should also be informed about the timeline of exposure if a measles outbreak is eventually confirmed.  

"It's helpful to know that symptoms can, after you are exposed to the measles, you have about a 10 to 14-day window of incubation before symptoms can appear. So that is a very important thing to let the public know because it won't show up immediately after exposure," said Wallace.

As CBS 2 has reported, police stations across the city have been serving as shelters for asylum seekers -- including the 25th District. 

A city spokesperson dismissed reports that speculate that migrants may be the source of this possible measles outbreak, adding that those claims are not only inaccurate but can fuel xenophobia.

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