Chicago health authorities are trying to track down people who might have been exposed to measles after a traveler infected with the highly contagious virus visited several locations in the city, including O’Hare International Airport.
People in the city might have come into contact with the virus on Dec. 12 or Dec. 17, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health. To prevent the spread of the disease, the agency wants to make sure these people are vaccinated or monitored for symptoms.
Hundreds of individuals could have been exposed, a health department spokeswoman said.
The traveler went to O’Hare International Airport and a Starbucks and a Mr. Greek Gyros in Chicago on Dec. 12 and returned to the airport on Dec. 17, according to the health department, which posted locations and times on its website.
People who think they might have been exposed should check their immunization records or contact their health-care providers, the Chicago health department said. People can also call the department directly.
“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,” said Allison Arwady, the department’s acting commissioner.
Measles is a respiratory condition caused by a virus and spread through the air after an infected person coughs or sneezes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disease can have potentially fatal complications.
Children younger than 5 years old, older adults, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems are especially vulnerable.
Signs of infection appear roughly seven to 14 days after coming into contact with the virus. Symptoms include high fever, coughing, runny nose and a rash. Infected people can spread the virus four days before and four days after the rash appears.
There have been more than 1,200 confirmed cases of measles cases this year across the U.S., the highest number since 1992. The majority of cases were linked to large outbreaks in New York state and occurred among people who weren’t vaccinated against measles.
Measles was technically declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, though it was close to losing that status this year. With measles still largely prevalent in other parts of the world, outbreaks in the U.S. often occur when someone becomes infected in another country and then transmits the virus in the U.S., with unvaccinated people vulnerable.
Chicago has a high measles, mumps and rubella immunization rate, according to the department of public health, meaning that most adults and children are protected against measles.
In Chicago, 94 percent of children in Chicago ages 19 months to 3 years have received at least one dose of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.
There have been nine confirmed measles cases in Illinois in 2019, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health, not including the traveler.
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