CDC Dispatches Expert Team to Assist Chicago in Tackling First Measles Outbreak Since 2019

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is deploying a team to Chicago to assist in addressing the city’s initial measles outbreaks since 2019, as confirmed by the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) to ABC News. This action comes in response to a rise in the number of individuals contracting the virus.

Over the past week, five individuals have been diagnosed with this highly contagious disease, with the two most recent cases being confirmed by the CDPH on Monday. The CDC has informed ABC News of its plans to send a team to Chicago, expected to arrive by Tuesday.

A CDC spokesperson stated on Monday, “We are dispatching a team of experts to aid in the local management of the recent measles outbreaks, with their arrival anticipated tomorrow. The CDC continues to advocate for the safe and effective MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine as part of the standard vaccination schedule for children and adults, including specific recommendations for international travel. We will keep providing updates as more information becomes available.”

Two additional cases of measles have been identified in adults at a shelter for new arrivals in Pilsen, as announced by the CDPH on Monday. Both individuals are currently in stable condition. These cases follow the earlier detection of measles in two children at the same shelter. The first child has since recovered and is no longer infectious, while the second child remains hospitalized in good condition, according to the CDPH.

An unrelated fifth case was reported in a Chicago resident, with the source of infection unknown and the contagious period having ended on March 6, health officials reported.

The CDPH is intensifying its vaccination message to all Chicago residents, including those at the new arrivals shelter, urging them to get vaccinated to protect themselves and their communities.

In a statement released on Monday, the health department revealed its collaboration with city and healthcare agencies to evaluate nearly all residents at the Pilsen shelter. Officials successfully administered the MMR vaccine to over 900 shelter residents, and more than 700 were assessed and found to be immune due to previous vaccination or infection.

“Newly vaccinated individuals were advised to stay at the shelter for 21 days from the date of vaccination, which is the period needed for the vaccine to provide full immunity,” the CDPH stated.

The CDC recommends two doses of the MMR vaccine, with the first dose administered between the ages of 12 to 15 months and the second dose between the ages of 4 and 6. Adults who are not immune may receive one dose of the vaccine.

The MMR vaccine is mandatory for attendance at Chicago Public Schools, although exemptions for religious reasons can be sought, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

CDPH Commissioner Olusimbo “Simbo” Ige recently emphasized that the risk to most people is low due to the high vaccination rate against measles in Chicago. However, Ige urged those who are unvaccinated to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

“The vaccine is the most effective defense against measles, which has reappeared in our city for the first time in years. Given the highly contagious nature of measles, I expect more cases to emerge. If you come into contact with someone who has measles and you are not vaccinated, you must immediately quarantine and contact a healthcare provider. If you are unsure of your vaccination status, stay home and reach out to your healthcare provider as soon as possible,” Ige advised.

The CDPH is also directing teams to other shelters for new arrivals across Chicago to provide MMR vaccinations and help prevent the spread of the disease.

Despite measles being declared eliminated in the United States in 2000, sporadic outbreaks have occurred in recent years due to pockets of unvaccinated or under-vaccinated communities.

As of March 7, 2024, 45 measles cases have been reported across 16 states, including California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington, according to the CDC.