First measles case confirmed in Illinois

By Margaret Anderson

Measles, a disease once eradicated in the United States, but recently emerged at Disneyland, is now in Illinois, the Illinois Department of Public Health revealed Tuesday.

The patient, who has not been identified, became ill in mid-January and is now in recovery, said Melaney Arnold, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Three locations in Chicago’s northwest suburbs were exposed to measles. (Margaret Anderson/Medill)

The patient might have exposed the public to measles at the Northwest Community Hospital emergency room in Arlington Heights from 7 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. on Jan. 14 and from 4 to 10:30 p.m. three days later. Further exposure might have occurred at the Vista Clinic in Palatine from 12:30 to 4 p.m. on Jan. 16, and the Supermercado Guzman supermarket in Palatine from 12:30 to 4 p.m. on Jan. 12 and 13, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The Supermercado Guzman posted a letter Tuesday from the Cook County Department of Public Health in their window in both Spanish and English. The letter alerted customers to the exposure and asked them to call the Cook County Department of Public Health if they experience symptoms, said Hector Guzman, manager of the grocery store.

Both hospitals have also been instructed to notify patients who might have been exposed, said Amy Poore-Terrell, director of public relations at the Cook County Department of Public Health.

The risk of contracting measles after having the two rounds of the Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccination is very minimal, Arnold said, adding that people who were at the exposed locations should only be concerned if they are not vaccinated. Children who have received only the first dose also have a high level of immunity, Arnold said.

The first MMR vaccination is given to infants at 12-15 months and the second dose is given to children between ages four and six.

“Once you do get measles, there isn’t a way to treat it,” said Poore-Terrell, “The only way to prevent it is through vaccination.”

Without vaccination, measles is highly contagious, with symptoms similar to the flu: runny nose, cough and fever. Other indicators are sore, red eyes and a rash beginning on the face and neck, Arnold said. Measles can be fatal, but deaths in the U.S. are rare, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Droplets from an infected person are contagious for up to two hours after the person has left the room, said Poore-Terrell, who estimates that close to 200 people were exposed to the infectious person in Illinois.

Measles was eliminated in the United States in 2000 but has continued to spread across the country among unvaccinated people. The greatest number of cases occurred in 2014, with 644 people from 27 states contracting the disease, according to the CDC.

The most recent outbreak was reported from Jan. 1 to 23, when 68 people from 11 states contracted measles at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. The Illinois Department of Public Health said the Illinois patient is not linked to the outbreak in California.

The recent outbreak at Disneyland has brought the anti-vaccination movement into the spotlight. Marcella Piper-Terry, a biomedical consultant who runs, said she believes the California outbreak is more likely due to unvaccinated foreign travelers coming to the United States.

“The people who are saying it’s the fault of people not vaccinating their children have not done their research,” said Piper-Terry, who has three children and two grandchildren, all of whom are fully or partially vaccinated.

“[Vaccination] should be an informed decision based on individuality, family history and predisposition,” Piper-Terry, 55, said.

Poore-Terrell said it is better to trust the widely accepted science. “The vaccine works. The fact that there were zero cases and now upwards of 600 cases nationwide shows that,” said Poore-Terrell, “You can’t ignore that.”

Photo at top: The first confirmed patient with measles visited three locations while contagious in Mid-January. (Margaret Anderson/Medill)