CDC Experts Join Forces with Chicago to Combat Measles Outbreak

In an immediate response to a measles outbreak in Chicago, a specialized team from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is slated to arrive in the city on Tuesday. Their mission is to collaborate with local public health officials to effectively manage the situation.

Chicago’s health landscape was recently disrupted by its first measles case since 2019, with the individual currently recovering at home, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health. The situation escalated when two unrelated cases of measles were identified among children residing in a migrant shelter located in a vast warehouse in the Pilsen neighborhood. Fortunately, one child has since recovered and is no longer contagious, while the other remains hospitalized but in good condition. Additionally, two adult cases have been confirmed within the same shelter, bringing the city’s total reported cases to five, with both adults in stable condition.

The CDC, which dispatches its experts at the request of local authorities, has noted that it has not deployed personnel to other recent measles outbreaks. The agency’s team plans to work in close partnership with both city and state health departments. Their efforts will focus on identifying individuals at risk, providing clinical guidance, coordinating testing, and educating community leaders and clinicians on the importance of vaccination. Furthermore, the CDC aims to guide a vaccination campaign targeting schools, shelters, and other communal settings, ensuring an ample supply of vaccines for both adults and children.

Dr. Olusimbo “Simbo” Ige, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, emphasized the critical importance of vaccination against measles, urging unvaccinated residents to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Despite the majority of Chicagoans being vaccinated, the highly contagious nature of measles has led to an expectation of more cases. Dr. Ige advises immediate quarantine and consultation with a health provider for those unvaccinated individuals who may have been exposed to the virus.

Measles is a highly contagious virus that can result in severe symptoms, including pneumonia and other life-threatening complications. However, it is preventable through vaccination. The virus can spread through contaminated air or surfaces, and individuals can transmit the virus approximately four days before and after the appearance of the characteristic rash.

Symptoms of measles typically begin with a mild to moderate fever, accompanied by a runny nose, cough, and red, watery eyes. Some individuals may also experience gastrointestinal issues. The disease poses a significant risk, particularly to babies and young children.

In the United States, most individuals receive two doses of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine during childhood, which is highly effective in preventing the disease post-exposure. The CDC continues to advocate for the MMR vaccination as part of the routine immunization schedule for children and adults, including those traveling internationally.

The Chicago health department has collaborated with various health institutions to assess and vaccinate residents of the affected shelter, with more than 900 individuals receiving vaccinations. Additionally, health officials are offering MMR shots to newly arrived migrants who have not been previously vaccinated.

This outbreak comes as health officials anticipate an increase in migrant arrivals following the expiration of Title 42, a public health order implemented during the Trump administration to curb the spread of COVID-19. The policy was a critical measure for managing migrant entries at the US-Mexico border. Former CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky highlighted the need for communities to be vigilant for possible infectious diseases among under-vaccinated populations settling in the US.

Despite measles being declared eliminated from the US in 2000, sporadic outbreaks continue to occur, underscoring the importance of maintaining high vaccination rates. Recent data reveals that about 92% of US children are vaccinated against MMR by age 2, slightly below the federal target of 95%. The rate of vaccine exemptions has also reached an all-time high, posing challenges to achieving herd immunity.

The CDC recommends two doses of the MMR vaccine for children, with the first dose administered between 12 to 15 months of age and the second between 4 to 6 years of age. Prior to the national measles vaccination program, millions were infected annually, resulting in hundreds of deaths. This historical context underscores the vital role of vaccination in controlling measles and protecting public health.