Get the Facts: Measles
2020 Measles Update
(last updated July 2022)
In 2019, the Chicago Department of Public Health identified two individual cases of measles and managed exposures within the city to several other cases in Illinois. The City of Chicago has one of the highest measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination rates in the nation, meaning that most children and adults in Chicago are vaccinated and protected. Although there is no ongoing risk to the public, residents are encouraged to review their immunization records or contact their health care provider to make sure they are up to date on MMR vaccine. Immunization records recorded in the Illinois immunization registry, Illinois Comprehensive Automated Immunization Registry Exchange (I-CARE), 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 10 years-old can get vaccinated at pharmacies under Illinois law. CDPH walk-in immunization clinics provide MMR vaccine for no out-of-pocket cost to any child 0-18 years and uninsured adults 19 and older.
Measles remains a common disease in many parts of the world, including Europe, the Middle East, Asia, the Pacific, and Africa. Measles outbreaks are occurring now in the United States as a result of returning travelers spreading the disease to people who have not been vaccinated and are not otherwise protected against measles. This fact sheet provides basic information about measles and how Chicago residents can best protect themselves and their children.
What is Measles?
Measles is a serious respiratory infection that causes a rash and fever, and is very contagious. Measles can be dangerous, especially for babies and young children. For some children, measles can lead to pneumonia (a serious lung infection), lifelong brain damage or deafness. In rare cases, it can be deadly.
What are the symptoms?
Measles starts with a fever that can get very high. Some of the other symptoms that may occur are cough, runny nose, red eyes, diarrhea and a rash of tiny, red spots that start at the head and spread to the rest of the body.
How is measles spread?
Measles is very contagious and spreads when a person infected with the measles virus breathes, coughs or sneezes. You can catch measles just by being in a room where a person with measles has been, up to 2 hours after that person has left. You can catch measles from an infected person even before they have a measles rash. Someone who has not had the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine (called the MMR vaccine) or a prior infection is highly likely to get measles if they are exposed to the measles virus.
How can I protect myself and my child?
The best way to protect against measles is to get the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. Adults who are not sure if they have had the vaccine or if they had a prior measles infection, should contact their medical provider.
Doctors recommend that most children get the first dose of the MMR vaccine at the age of 12 to 15 months and a second dose at 4 to 6 years of age. The MMR vaccine protects your child from measles, and also against mumps and rubella.
For those who travel internationally, all children older than 6 months should receive the MMR vaccine. Talk with your health care professional about protecting your baby at least 4 weeks prior to departure. Infants who are too young to be vaccinated should avoid contact with sick people or situations where they may be exposed to sick people. Adults who are travelling internationally may need 1 or 2 doses of MMR vaccine depending on their vaccination history. Visit https://www.cdc.gov/measles/plan-for-travel.html for more information.
What is the risk of measles in Chicago?
Between 2011 and 2019, there have been several confirmed cases of measles in Chicago, largely related to international travel. Most individuals in Chicago are protected from measles because they were vaccinated as children. However, some children under the age of 12 months or those with weakened immune systems may not be able to receive the vaccine. Travelers returning to Chicago from areas both internationally and within the United States experiencing ongoing measles outbreaks may pose a risk of spread of the illness within the city.
Is the MMR vaccine safe?
Yes. The MMR vaccine is very safe, and it is effective at preventing measles (as well as mumps and rubella). Vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects. But most children who get the MMR vaccine have few side effects. Most commonly people complain of fever, pain, or redness at the site the vaccine was given.
Is there a link between the MMR vaccine and autism?
No. Scientists in the United States and other countries have carefully studied the MMR vaccine and have found no link between autism and the MMR vaccine.
What should I do if I’m unsure whether I or my child is immune to measles?
If you are unsure whether you or your child has received the MMR vaccine, contact your healthcare provider to discuss your child’s or your immunization records. If you do not have a healthcare provider, you can call 311 or visit www.chicago.gov/health to locate a CDPH walk-in immunization clinic where MMR vaccine is provided for no out-of-pocket cost to any child 0-18 years and uninsured adults 19 and older.