Rising Measles Cases in Chicago: Understanding Symptoms, Historical Context


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Chicago, IL – Recent reports from the Chicago Department of Public Health reveal a concerning increase in measles cases within the city, with two new adult cases identified this week at a Pilsen migrant shelter. This brings the total number of cases in Chicago this year to five, underscoring the need for heightened awareness and vaccination efforts. The recent cases highlight the ongoing risk of measles, a highly contagious disease that was once nearly eradicated in the United States.

According to health experts, measles starts with symptoms like fever, cough, runny nose, and red eyes, progressing to a characteristic rash that spreads across the body. The disease is so contagious that a single case can be considered an outbreak, emphasizing the importance of vaccination.

A Brief History of Measles:

The battle against measles has been long and arduous. In the 9th century, a Persian doctor published one of the first written accounts of measles disease. It wasn’t until 1757 that Francis Home, a Scottish physician, demonstrated that measles is caused by an infectious agent in the blood of patients. The United States began to report measles cases nationally in 1912, with thousands of deaths annually. The landscape of measles dramatically changed with the introduction of the vaccine in 1963, developed from the measles virus isolated by John F. Enders and colleagues.

Despite the availability of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, measles outbreaks still occur, particularly among unvaccinated populations. Over 93% of people who receive a single dose of MMR will develop immunity, and more than 97% after a second dose. Health officials recommend that children are vaccinated at 12-15 months and again at 4-6 years of age.

Current Measures and Recommendations:

In response to the recent cases, Chicago’s health department has initiated a vaccination campaign in coordination with the CDC, administering the MMR vaccine to over 900 residents at the affected shelter. Individuals who have received the vaccine are advised to remain at the facility for 21 days post-vaccination to prevent further spread.

Public health officials emphasize the importance of vaccination and encourage individuals to check their vaccination status with healthcare providers. For those experiencing measles symptoms, it’s crucial to stay home and contact a healthcare provider to prevent spreading the disease.

As the city tackles this outbreak, the history of measles serves as a reminder of the disease’s impact and the critical role of vaccination in public health. For more information on measles and vaccinations, visit the CDC or your local health department’s website.


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