Measles Update: Chicago Department of Public Health vaccinates hundreds at Pilsen shelter

March 11, 2024

Two additional cases identified, citywide response engaged

CDPH Public Information Office:

CHICAGO - In response to confirmed measles infections in the city for the first time in five years, the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) escalated and expanded coordination with community and healthcare partners, various other city agencies, and state, county and federal public health officials to contain the spread of the virus to the greatest degree possible. Unfortunately, the United States as a whole is currently experiencing a resurgence of measles, and cases have been reported in 17 states so far.

Two additional measles cases have been identified in the Halsted Street shelter in Pilsen, bringing the total number of cases at the shelter to four. These two new cases are in adults, and both are stable. Including an additional case last week unrelated to new arrivals, there have been five confirmed cases in the city. Because some Chicagoans on the whole are unvaccinated, there remains an opportunity for the virus to spread. CDPH is, therefore, treating this response as a citywide one and is calling on all eligible unvaccinated residents to get vaccinated now. Most Chicagoans are routinely vaccinated in childhood and therefore not at high risk.

Over the weekend and in partnership with Cook County Health, Rush University Medical Center and the University of Illinois-Chicago, CDPH assessed nearly all residents of the Pilsen shelter where there have been four confirmed measles cases, and successfully vaccinated more than 900 shelter residents with the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. More than 700 shelter residents who were assessed and found to already be immune from previous vaccination or infection were allowed to enter and exit the facility. Those who are newly vaccinated were instructed to remain at the shelter for 21 days from date of vaccination, which is when the vaccine confers full immunity.

“This is a massive operation and I thank our many partners who are assisting with it and the new arrivals for understanding the need to get vaccinated and quarantine. As long as measles circulates in Chicago, we will continue to take a proactive approach to protecting as many people as we can from this highly infectious disease,” said CDPH Commissioner Olusimbo ‘Simbo’ Ige, MD, MPH. “Vaccination remains by far the most effective way to prevent the spread of measles. New arrivals and all Chicagoans should get the MMR vaccine if they haven’t already.”

Other developments in the response on Monday:

  • CDPH and the Office of Emergency Management and Communications have established a standing presence at the new arrivals landing zone site, providing doses of MMR to unvaccinated individuals arriving in Chicago as part of their intake process. All new arrivals awaiting placement at the landing zone who have been vaccinated or provide proof of vaccination will be placed into temporary shelters.
  • On Monday, several dozen residents of the Pilsen shelter who were immune – from previous vaccination or infection – were moved to an alternative site to begin ramping up quarantine logistics. The City will continue to transfer immune residents as well as those who need to quarantine in designated hotel spaces.
  • Provider teams are being directed to other new arrival shelters across Chicago to provide MMR vaccinations to those who need them and mitigate the spread of measles to new settings.

Measles is a highly contagious and serious respiratory infection that causes a rash and high fever and is capable of leading to pneumonia and other complications, and can be particularly challenging for babies and young children.

All Chicagoans are encouraged to review their immunization records or contact their healthcare provider to make sure they are up to date on the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. Immunization records recorded in the Illinois immunization registry can be accessed using the Illinois Department of Public Health Vax Verify portal .

MMR vaccine is available at most doctor’s offices and pharmacies. Illinois children as young as 7 years old can get vaccinated at pharmacies under Illinois law. CDPH Immunization clinics provide MMR vaccine for no out-of-pocket cost to any child 0–18 years and uninsured adults 19 and older. For more information on measles please visit the CDPH website.

A first dose of the MMR vaccine is recommended at 12 months of age and a second at 4 to 6 years of age, but it is never too late to get your MMR vaccine if you haven't already. CDPH offers MMR vaccinations at no cost for uninsured adults and children eligible for the Vaccines For Children program at our various health clinics around Chicago. Adults who aren't sure if they're vaccinated against measles should contact their health care provider. For more information about measles and how you can protect yourself, visit the CDC website.

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