Measles Outbreak Sweeps Chicago | Credits: Getty Images
Measles Outbreak Sweeps Chicago | Credits: Getty Images

Measles Outbreak Sweeps Chicago, Spurs Urgent Vaccination Measures

United States: Amidst a surge of measles cases, Chicago finds itself grappling with an outbreak of 33 confirmed instances, predominantly linked to a migrant shelter, thrusting the city into the forefront of a virus previously eradicated from the United States for nearly two decades.

Chicago witnessed the emergence of nine fresh confirmed cases just this week, with neighboring counties reporting additional instances associated with the city’s outbreak. In the current year of 2024, Illinois has already documented 35 cases, merely three fewer than the cumulative count over the preceding eight years, as per data from the state health department, as per News Nation.

This outbreak in the Windy City comprises half of the nationwide cases, as indicated by recent figures from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As of March 21, the CDC has tallied 64 confirmed cases across 17 states nationwide.

The tally of 64 cases within the initial three months of the year already eclipses the 58 cases reported throughout the entirety of 2023, signaling a potentially alarming 800% surge. While the CDC refrained from specifying state-wise case distributions among the 17 affected states, health authorities in Florida have noted 11 confirmed cases, primarily stemming from an outbreak within an elementary school.

Within Illinois, the epicenter of the outbreak lies in a Chicago migrant shelter accommodating over 1,800 individuals. The CDC dispatched a team to Chicago promptly upon outbreak detection to aid local authorities in managing this health crisis. Byron Sigcho-Lopez, Alderperson for the district housing the shelter, previously lamented the absence of health protocols for incoming migrants from the southern border, News Nation reported.

Sigcho-Lopez further highlighted the reluctance among incoming migrants towards vaccination. Consequently, city health authorities mandated measles and COVID-19 vaccination as prerequisites for residency in city-operated shelters.

In an online discourse featured on the American Medical Association’s platform, Andrea Garcia, Vice President of Science, Medicine, and Public Health, attributed the surge in measles outbreaks since 2010 to the ease with which the virus is imported by unvaccinated travelers and its subsequent propagation within under-immunized communities.

Florida’s Republican Governor, Ron DeSantis, defended his state surgeon general’s response to the Florida outbreak, advocating for the continued attendance of unvaccinated children in schools. DeSantis touted his approach as exemplifying evidence-based leadership, prioritizing personal responsibility and parental rights.

Earlier this month, DeSantis asserted that Florida had been disproportionately spotlighted for political motives. On Wednesday, he redirected scrutiny towards Chicago, stating, “Now you see 30 cases in Chicago with illegal aliens. I don’t hear the same carping from the media,” as reported by the Florida Phoenix. “In fact, they’re not talking about it really very much at all. So, it just goes to show you, you know, the phony narratives that get put out all to drive a phony agenda,” as News Nation reported.

US measles cases appear set for a nearly 300% upsurge

The CDC divulged that between 2020 and 2022, over 61 million measles-containing vaccines were either deferred or missed due to COVID-19-induced delays.

Within Chicago’s ongoing outbreak, 22 out of the 33 cases have been identified in children aged four and below, prompting health authorities to revise their vaccination policy at the shelter.

The Chicago Department of Public Health announced that individuals inoculated at the shelter would receive the second dose of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine 28 days following their initial dose. While the typical administration schedule stipulates eligibility for the MMR vaccine at 12 months, with a second dose between ages 4 and 6, the expedited second dose seeks to curb viral transmission within the facility, as per News Nation.

This policy adjustment is anticipated to impact approximately 50 sheltered children, with over 900 individuals vaccinated within days of the initial case report. An additional 700 shelter residents possessed immunity either through prior vaccination or exposure to measles.

Olusimbo Ige, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, emphasized the vulnerability of children under five to breakthrough measles infections following a single vaccine dose. “We’re seeing some of these cases at the Halsted shelter, which isn’t surprising,” Ige remarked in a statement this week. “I understand this will be a challenge for families, but we want to do everything to protect young children from contracting measles by ensuring two doses of the MMR vaccine.”