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Case of measles confirmed in Northwest Indiana, first in state since 2019

Measles alert issued for Chicago area
Measles alert issued for Chicago area 02:25

CHICAGO (CBS) – Health officials said one confirmed case of measles was detected in Northwest Indiana earlier this month, and they are now trying to track down anyone who may have been exposed.

Indiana health officials said the confirmed case is from Lake County, Indiana. It's the first case in Indiana since 2019.

The Indiana Department of Health said the Indiana resident sought medical care last week at three Chicago hospitals while contagious from Feb. 11 through Feb. 16. Officials did not identify which specific hospitals.

While cases of measles are exceedingly rare in Chicago because of the high vaccination coverage, the virus is highly contagious and can be dangerous to those who are unvaccinated, especially babies and young children.

The World Health Organization estimates that measles cases increased by 80 percent last year, and it is believed to be linked directly to a decrease in vaccinations among school-age children.

The respiratory virus typically comes with a signature rash.

"Measles is a nasty, nasty virus, and there's not much we can do after you have it. So we really need to prevent people from getting it," said Dr. Taylor Heald-Sargent, an infectious disease specialist at Lurie Children's Hospital. "It's a unique virus that knocks down your immune system after you get it, leaving you susceptible to other infections - and those infections can be quite severe."

Case of measles confirmed in NW Indiana, health officials confirm 01:27

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports there have been 36 recent measles cases in 16 states.

The disease was declared eliminated from the U.S. in 2000, but it has made a comeback – as vaccination rates have fallen below the 95 percent needed to achieve herd immunity.

In Cook County last year, four cases of measles were detected, the first since 2019. Health officials have said it was a concerning trend specifically because more schools are falling below that herd immunity threshold.

A CBS 2 analysis of state immunization data from the 2022-2023 school year shows 882 schools statewide reported vaccination rates lower than the federal recommendation of 95 percent.

In Chicago since the 2019-2020 school year, 157 percent more schools are falling below the herd immunity threshold – leaving students less protected.

"I was shocked looking at the numbers recently that there are quite a few Chicago schools that are well below heard immunity level of 95 percent," Sargent-Heald said.

Next Wednesday, Feb. 28, there will be three locations providing measles vaccinations in Northwest Indiana:

  • Gary Health Department, 1145 W. Fifth Ave., Gary
  • East Chicago Health Department, 100 W. Chicago Ave., East Chicago
  • Jean Shepard Community Center, 3031 J.F. Mahoney Dr., Hammond

All three vaccination clinics are open from 3 p.m. until 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 28. Anyone 1 year old or older is eligible for vaccination.

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