Cook County at high risk for measles outbreak in 2019, report says

CHICAGO — The researchers who predicted the Zika outbreak are now saying Cook County could be home to the next big measles outbreak.

A study published Friday by researchers at the University of Texas said Cook County is at risk for an outbreak largely due to Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Many people flying into the city are coming from countries where children do not get vaccinated.

The report took about six months to complete. The scientists who authored it are the same ones who predicted Zika would first break out in Texas and Florida.

The researchers used risk assessment models to identify the 25 American counties that are most at risk for a widespread measles outbreak. The big concern in Chicago is the number of people who travel through city airports from areas where there have been measles epidemics.

The people most at risk in the U.S. are those who cannot get vaccinated because of allergies or compromised immune systems.

Doctors said the research about Cook County doesn’t mean people should be afraid to go to O’Hare or to travel and enjoy life. Doctors recommend getting an MMR vaccination to protect yourself. Adults should have had at least two shots in their lifetime. Contrary to misinformation, doctors said, the MMR vaccine is safe.

“We have had seven cases in the state of Illinois since the beginning of the year,” Dr. Rachel Rubin with the Cook County Department of Public Health said. “Of course, we would like to see zero cases. Any measles case is a concern. … But walking through O’Hare is not a problem, especially if you’re vaccinated. That’s really the take-home message. Make sure you’re vaccinated, your children [are vaccinated], and you’re safe.”

Most insurance plans cover the MMR vaccine, but those without insurance can get the shot at free clinics offered by the county. More than 95 percent of the population needs to be vaccinated to prevent an outbreak.

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