DeKalb County Health Department provides update on local measles cases

April 20, 2019 GMT

DeKALB – DeKalb County Health Department officials said there have been two confirmed cases of measles in the county in 2019.

Cindy Graves is a registered nurse and director of community health and prevention with the department. She said the cases haven’t warranted outbreak notices, since the outbreak number for measles is three cases.

“We are not one of those that they listed to be considered as an outbreak,” Graves said.

Graves’s comments come after there have been seven cases and two outbreaks so far in 2019 within Illinois; those cases are among the 555 confirmed cases of measles in 20 states. That includes one infected person arriving on a flight at Midway Airport in Chicago and seeking care shortly afterward at Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital in Geneva.

Graves said the two DeKalb County cases were not related to the Midway Airport exposure.

She declined comment on whether those affected are adults or children and exactly when they were infected, but she said they were not vaccinated and no longer are considered contagious.

“It’s been long enough where it’s past the infectious period,” Graves said.

Measles symptoms include fever, runny nose, cough, red eyes and sore throat, followed by a rash that spreads all over the body, according to a health department news release. Symptoms usually appear seven to 14 days after a person is exposed, and patients are considered contagious from four days before to four days after the rash appears, the release said.

Immunization for measles begins between 12 and 15 months old and a second dose is administered between 4 and 6 years old. Anyone born before 1957 has presumed immunity from exposure or contracting the disease. Vaccinations are heavily recommended for anyone born after that year.

However, if a child at least 6 months old is traveling overseas and is not yet vaccinated, they can be immunized early, Lorna Schmidt, registered nurse and communicable disease coordinator for the DeKalb County Health Department, said.

“They would get their second one at a year old ... and they would get their third at kindergarten,” Schmidt said

Illinois requires all students to be vaccinated against measles and other diseases, including polio, chickenpox and tetanus.

The World Health Organization recommends a 95% measles vaccination rate or higher to create herd immunity, or to stop the spread of contagious diseases within a population.

Students may be exempt from vaccinations after citing religious objections or for medical reasons. Homeless students also are not required to provide proof of immunization in order to start attending school under the McKinney-Vento Act.

About 91% of schools in DeKalb County are at or above the level of achieving herd immunity for measles, according to Illinois State Board of Education immunization data for the current school year. The schools that fell below the recommended mark are the Montessori Children’s House of DeKalb and Sycamore (88.89%), Hinckley-Big Rock Elementary School (91.59%), St. Mary Catholic School in DeKalb (94.05%) and Cornerstone Christian Academy in Sycamore (94.21%).

Montessori Children’s House, which had a 100% compliance rate with the state, has only 18 students, with two students claiming religious exemptions, according to state data. School officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday.

Graves said children, immune-compromised people and unborn fetuses have the highest risk of infection. She said it’s important to strive as close to herd immunity as possible so that those who are the most vulnerable to measles are less likely to contract it.

“So you’re not only protecting yourself, but you’re protecting others,” Graves said.