In the midst of a surge in COVID-19 cases, health officials are now warning Chicagoans about possible exposure to another infectious disease: measles.
The Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) has been notified that a toddler, since diagnosed with measles, traveled through O’Hare International Airport earlier this month while contagious.
Possible exposure to the child may have occurred on Nov. 4. Officials have pinpointed the timing to 8 p.m. in Terminal 5 and 6-9:30 p.m. in Terminal 3. Measles is highly contagious and the virus can remain in the air for up to two hours after the infected person has passed through an area.
According to CDPH, those who may have been exposed to the contagious child don’t need to take any action if they have been vaccinated against measles. Anyone unvaccinated who was at O’Hare on the date and times mentioned should contact their doctor if they develop symptoms of measles, which include a rash, high fever and red, watery eyes.
Chicago has one of the highest rates for MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccination in the nation, according to CDPH. The department’s data from 2019 shows that 94% of children in Chicago ages 19 months to 3 years old have received at least one dose of the MMR vaccine.
But during the pandemic, families around the world have postponed routine health visits, and progress toward the global elimination of measles has stalled, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted in a recent study. New infections have increased internationally to the highest number reported in 23 years, according to the CDC.
“The best protection against measles is through immunization, and everyone should make sure they and their family members are up to date on their vaccines,” CDPH Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a statement.
Those at greatest risk for measles infection are unvaccinated children — especially infants — pregnant women without evidence of measles immunity and individuals with a weakened immune system. CDPH provides measles vaccines to uninsured children and adults at no charge at the agency’s walk-in immunization clinics.