Officials: As many as 15 infants affected by Palatine measles cluster
At least five infants -- and perhaps as many as 15 -- enrolled at a Palatine day care center have contracted measles, Cook County and state health officials announced Thursday.
"There will be more cases," Dr. Terry Mason, chief operating officer of the Cook County public health department, said Thursday. "This is a highly contagious disease."
The affected children all attended KinderCare Learning Center, 929 E. Palatine Road, in Palatine. A spokeswoman for KinderCare said Thursday the company is cooperating with health officials.
Previous to Thursday's announcement, there had been only 10 documented measles cases over the last five years in Illinois. "We haven't seen anything like this in many years where there is a cluster of multiple cases," said Dr. Rachel Rubin, a county senior medical officer.
The five infants were too young to receive the measles vaccination, officials said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that a child not receive the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine until he or she is 12 to 15 months old.
Laboratory tests confirmed a measles diagnosis for two of the children, officials said. Test results for three remaining cases are still pending, but those children have been diagnosed based on clinical and epidemiological criteria. Officials said four of the five children live in the Northwest suburbs and the fifth lives in Chicago. All are receiving treatment at their homes. Ten other infants that were exposed are considered likely to catch the disease.
Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease that causes fever, red and sore eyes, runny nose, cough and a characteristic rash. The disease can cause severe health complications, including fatal cases of pneumonia and encephalitis.
The day care center remained open Thursday and children were seen inside. Some parents who arrived at the center to pick up their children Thursday afternoon said they were not informed of the outbreak by KinderCare officials.
"I just wish they would have communicated with us," said Amy Piucuch, who was picking up her 4-year-old. "We have not received any communication from KinderCare. This is the first I'm hearing of it."
Another parent, Elizabeth Gharagozlou of Palatine, said she thought officials at KinderCare were handling the situation well. Picking up her two kids at the facility Thursday night, Gharagozlou said she believes her children are safe because they are vaccinated.
"My kids are vaccinated. I'm vaccinated. My husband is. Better safe than sorry," she said. "We're not worried about it."
Gharagozlou said she recently got a vaccine before a planned trip to Disneyland in Anaheim, California, where another U.S. measles outbreak originated. "I got a vaccine to go to Disneyland, which is crazy in and of itself," Gharagozlou said. "Having it here, it's insane."
Colleen Moran, a spokeswoman for KinderCare Learning Centers, said county health officials said the center could stay open while they investigate the source of the cluster. The day care center is working to provide officials with immunization records for children and staff, she added. Those not immunized, or whose records are not up to date, are being told to stay home.
"We will continue to work in close contact with health officials and follow their guidelines," Moran said.
Health officials have not pinpointed the source of infection, but said they have found no link to another confirmed measles case in Palatine, announced about a week ago, and the Disneyland outbreak.
They also have ordered anyone associated with the center who has not received the MMR vaccine to keep away from unvaccinated individuals for the next 21 days. The end of the quarantine is Feb. 24.
Mason said the center has been "extremely cooperative" with the active investigation.
"We also gave the center a deep clean last night," Moran said in a written statement Thursday. "We will continue to closely monitor the situation here and elsewhere and to keep our center families apprised of our response."
About 65 students in Palatine Township Elementary School District 15 attend the KinderCare and all have up-to-date vaccinations, Superintendent Scott Thompson said. The district's Winston Campus is across Palatine Road from the day care.
Palatine village officials notified the district before noon Thursday about the cluster, prompting school leaders to assemble a team. "We view this as a safety issue, and we got on top of it right away," Thompson said.
The district will clean three buses that transport students to KinderCare and will do "some deeper cleaning for any areas" that could have come into contact with the roughly 65 students, Thompson said. The district alerted all parents Thursday afternoon.
Gov. Bruce Rauner also issued a statement about the outbreak.
"It's unfortunate to see some of our youngest residents dealing with the measles," he said. "I wish them a fast and full recovery. Measles is one of the most preventable illnesses, and this should be a reminder to ensure your family is vaccinated."
Investigation into the cluster began Feb. 1, when the county health department received two calls from Northwest Community Hospital regarding sick infants who had fevers and rashes, Mason said. The department told the hospital to collect lab samples to test for measles.
On Feb. 2, investigators determined both infants were in a common room at the same day care center, Mason said. On Tuesday afternoon, day care staff notified the department of two other children with symptoms. The first signs -- low-grade fever, cough and runny nose -- are often confused with the common cold, officials said.
While these measles cases seem to be focused in Northwest suburban Cook County, any resident who is not vaccinated and experiences symptoms of a high fever and a rash should call their local health department as well as their health care provider, according to a joint statement from the county and Illinois Department of Public Health.
Measles is transmitted by contact with an infected person through coughing or sneezing and can remain in the air and on surfaces for up to two hours. Infected people are contagious from 4 days before their rash starts through 4 days afterward.
The outbreak continues to underscore the importance of getting vaccinated, health officials said.
"The vast majority of suburban Cook County residents have been vaccinated and have a very low risk of contracting the measles," Mason said.
• Daily Herald staff writer Christopher Placek contributed to this report.
Measles: What you should know• One of the first published accounts of the measles comes from a 9th-century Persian doctor. In 1912, it became a nationally notifiable disease in the United States, requiring health care providers and laboratories to report all diagnosed cases. In the first decade of reporting, an average of 6,000 measles-related deaths were reported annually.
• In 1963, biomedical scientist John Enders and colleagues created the first measles vaccine. Five years later, an improved vaccine was created and remains in use today.
• Early symptoms include fever, red and sore eyes, runny nose and a cough. A characteristic rash appears three to five days later on the face and hairline, then spreads to the neck, trunk, arms, legs, and feet.
• Measles can be a serious in all age groups, but children younger than 5 and adults older than 20 are more likely to suffer from measles complications.
• Severe complications can include pneumonia and encephalitis. For every 1,000 children who get measles, one or two will die from it. Measles may cause pregnant women to give birth prematurely, or have a low-birth-weight baby.
• Measles was declared eliminated from the United States in 2000 but since has made a comeback. There were 37 reported cases in 2004 and 644 in 2014.
• The Centers for Disease Control recommends all children get two doses of the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine, starting with the first dose at 12 through 15 months of age, and the second dose at 4 through 6 years of age. Adults who do not have evidence of immunity against measles should get at least one dose of MMR vaccine, according to the CDC.
• The most common adverse events following the MMR vaccine are pain where the vaccine is given, fever, a mild rash, and swollen glands in the cheeks or neck. Vaccine safety experts, including at CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics, agree MMR vaccine is not responsible for increases in the number of children with autism.
• If a person experiences measles symptoms, he or she should contact a health care provider and county health department. Do not go to the doctor's office or an emergency room, as they could infect others there.
Source: Centers for Disease Control; Cook County Department of Public Health