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Measles Cases Rise: “Get Vaccinated,” Cook County Public Health Says

Cook County Public Health Officials Say Recent Measles Cases Important Reminder to Get Vaccinated

Park Forest, IL—(ENEWSPF)—Cook County public health officials strongly urge residents to get vaccinated against measles if they haven’t already. This is due to an uptick in measles cases.

Measles cases have recently been reported in Chicago. While there have been no confirmed cases in suburban Cook County so far this year, CCDPH confirmed five cases last October. Those cases were in an apartment building, which affected two families in two separate units who had no contact with each other.

The Illinois Department of Public Health reports eight cases in the state already in 2024.

In the Village of Park Forest, Assistant Director of Recreation, Parks, & Community Health Margaret Lewis said it’s important for residents to understand the disease. Most importantly, there are steps people can take to prevent the spread of measles.

Measles Cases: A Deadly Virus for Children

“Measles is a virus that spreads easily through the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks,” Lewis said. “It is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus. People of any age can get measles, but the disease is most common—and most deadly—in children.”

Lewis added, “Much like COVID-19, it can also spread when infected droplets land on a surface and someone touches it. So good hand hygiene and up-to-date with the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella vaccines are essential to reduce the spread.”

Lewis said measles can cause serious complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis (brain swelling). 

Measles is a severe respiratory disease that is highly contagious and especially dangerous for babies and young children, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems. Complications from measles can lead to pneumonia, seizures, hearing loss, life-long brain damage, and death.

“Most people are routinely vaccinated as children and are not at high risk of getting measles,” said Cook County Department of Public Health Chief Operating Officer Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck. “We are most concerned about those who have not been vaccinated. Measles is so contagious that 90 percent of unvaccinated people will get it if exposed.”

Vaccinations Are 97% Effective.

Health experts recommend two doses of the MMR vaccine to protect against measles, mumps, and rubella.

Children should get their first dose between 12 and 15 months and the second between 4 and 6 years of age. The medical community advises vaccinations for teenagers and adults. This is particularly important for those with no evidence of immunity.

“The MMR vaccine is safe and effective,” said Dr. Hasbrouck. “Two doses are 97 percent effective at preventing measles. It is available at most doctor’s offices and pharmacies.”

The measles virus spreads quickly through the air when an infected person breathes, coughs, or sneezes and can linger in a room for up to 2 hours. According to the CDC, symptoms typically appear 7-to-14 days after contact with the virus. Initial symptoms include high fever, cough, runny nose, and watery eyes. The distinctive rashes associated with measles typically appear 3-to-5 days after symptoms begin. Individuals with measles are contagious, starting four days before and continuing four days after rash onset.

What to do if you or a loved one develops measles symptoms:

Suppose you or a loved one develops measles symptoms. In that case, CCDPH recommends calling a healthcare provider. Do this before going to a medical office or emergency department to prevent the virus from spreading to others. The healthcare provider will determine the need for testing.

Increased measles cases have occurred worldwide in recent months due to lower vaccination coverage and international travel. As of March 7, the CDC reported 45 measles cases in 17 U.S. states this year. There were 58 cases in 2023.

For more information about measles, contact your healthcare provider. Likewise, visit the Illinois Department of Public Health webpage on measles or the CDC’s measles site.

This article uses information from the Village of Park Forest, the Cook County Department of Public Health, and the Illinois Department of Public Health.