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Cook County suburbs report first measles case since Chicago outbreak began

First confirmed measles case in Cook County suburbs
First confirmed measles case in Cook County suburbs 00:22

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Public health officials on Friday announced the first confirmed case of measles in the Cook County suburbs, linked to an outbreak at a Chicago migrant shelter.

The Cook County Department of Public Health confirmed a suburban Cook County resident was exposed to measles while at a migrant shelter in Chicago. That person was later diagnosed with measles and has since recovered and is no longer contagious.

Health officials were working to identify anyone who might have been exposed to measles after contact with that person. Anyone who was exposed will be offered testing and vaccination.

Officials urged Cook County residents to get all recommended vaccinations, including for measles. 

"People who have not been vaccinated or previously infected are at risk of getting measles," according to CCDPH Chief Operating Officer Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck. "Fewer people have chosen to get the measles vaccine in recent years, resulting in an increase in cases in 2023 and 2024. Before then, there were no measles cases reported in Illinois since 2019."  

Chicago has had a total of 52 measles cases since early March when the Chicago Department of Public Health confirmed the city's first case since 2019. Less than a day later, the city confirmed a case of measles in a child at the migrant shelter in Pilsen.

Since then, the total number of measles cases in Chicago has risen to 52, including 21 in the past week. Chicago Department of Public Health data show 73% of the cases are in children, with 60% of the cases in children 4 or younger.

Symptoms of measles

Measles is a highly contagious, serious airborne disease that can lead to severe complications or death.

After being exposed, symptoms could take from seven to 21 days to show up.

The most common symptoms include rash, high fever (104 degrees), cough, runny nose, and red, watery eyes.

According to the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC), a rash can break out three to five days after symptoms begin. The rash appears in small, red, raised bumps. The rash typically begins on the face and neck and then spreads down the body. 

Tiny white spots may appear inside the mouth between two and three days after symptoms begin, according to the CDC. 

Measles is more contagious than COVID and flu, according to Dr. Katrine Wallace, an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

According to the World Health Organization, complications can include blindness, encephalitis (an infection causing brain swelling and potentially brain damage), severe diarrhea, dehydration, ear infections severe breathing problems, including pneumonia.

Anyone who develops symptoms of measles should contact a healthcare provider by phone or email before going to a medical office or emergency department. Special arrangements can be made for evaluation while also protecting others from exposure.

Doctors warn of dropping vaccination rates

 Declining measles vaccination rates are a problem – as CBS 2 reported before the first measles case in Chicago since 2019 was confirmed. Some measles vaccination rates are as low as 12% for some pre-kindergarten students in Chicago Public Schools.

"If someone were to have active measles and be in a room, and then left, and you were to go in that room an hour later - if you were susceptible to measles, you would have a 98% chance of catching measles," said pediatrician Dr. Gary Reschak of Northwestern Medicine Huntley Hospital.

Because measles is so contagious, Dr. Reschak said parents should be paying close attention to the continued spread.

"I'm personally worried we might be heading into a world where measles will once again become endemic in the United States," said Dr. Reschak. "and it's really something we all need to work together and make sure everyone is getting vaccinated, follow the public health recommendations, and try to limit this."

The City of Chicago has provided a "Get the Facts" web page for measles. The State of Illinois, and Lake and Will counties, which also have confirmed measles cases in recent days, have also put out information.

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