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Contagion Alert Issued After NIU Visitor Is Diagnosed With Measles

Katie Finlon/WNIJ
Graduates and guests at the May 14 NIU commencement exercises may have been exposed to measles. A visitor from outside the U.S. has been diagnosed with the disease.

A relative of a Northern Illinois University graduate has been diagnosed with measles. Health officials are alerting anyone who may have come in contact with this visitor from outside the United States to be aware of possible contagion.

This visitor became ill in the past week and is no longer contagious, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. But people who were in the same places with this visitor may be in danger of contagion.

Credit dph.illinois.gov
Dr. Nirav Shah

“Measles is highly contagious, and a person with no immunity can become infected simply by being in the same room with someone who has the disease,” IDPH Director Dr. Nirav D. Shah said in a news release.

The family member attended the 1:30 p.m. commencement ceremony in the NIU Convocation Center on Saturday, May 14. The relative also stayed in the Holmes Student Center hotel from Friday, May 13, through Sunday, May 15, and attended a College of Business reception Saturday morning in the Barsema Hall atrium.

A person who has measles symptoms and may have been exposed should call his or her health-care provider to arrange for care. The IDPH says such individuals should not go directly to a doctor’s office or emergency room without calling for advice because they could infect others around them.

Measles symptoms include a fever of 101 F° or higher, cough, runny nose, and red eyes with or without rash.

According to IDPH, other concerns for possible infection include:

  • Customers and employees at Walmart, 2300 Sycamore Road, DeKalb, from 11:30 p.m. May 13 to 2 a.m. on May 14.
  • Customers and employees at Panda Express, 1015 W. Lincoln Highway, DeKalb, from noon until 3 p.m. May 14
  • Guests and employees at the Chicago Essex Inn, 800 S Michigan Ave, Chicago on May 15 and 16.

The IDPH news release says that people who have been fully vaccinated with two doses of the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine are at low risk of becoming infected, but those who have not been vaccinated could become ill.  Two doses of the vaccine are 97 percent effective at preventing measles infection and are required for all Illinois school children. 
“This case in Illinois is a reminder of the importance of immunizations,” said IDPH Director Shah.  “While Illinois did have a cluster of measles cases last year, we typically only see a handful of cases each year.  However, measles is much more common in other countries and is only a plane ride away.  It’s important that anyone who can be vaccinated get vaccinated.  It will help protect you as well as others who can’t be vaccinated, like infants younger than a year old.”

Health officials will continue to investigate the source of the disease, identify and follow-up with anyone who may have potentially been exposed, and be vigilant for new cases. 

NIU sent out a campuswide alert to students, faculty, and staff.  Health care providers who suspect a case of measles should contact the local health department immediately.

More information about measles may be found on the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) website.

For a list of local health departments, visit the IDPH Local Health Department Alphabetical Listing web page.