"Syringe and Vaccine" by Flickr User NIAID / (CC X 2.0)

While the world waits for a COVID-19 vaccine, doctors are encouraging residents to catch up on their other immunizations. 

Lisa Gonzalez is Public Health Administrator for the DeKalb County Health Department. She said with the current pandemic, it’s just as important to protect yourself against other respiratory diseases, such as influenza.

“We believe that it’s likely that the flu virus and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both be spreading at the same time.”

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In four years of medical school, Illinois Director of Public Health Ngozi Ezike didn’t have to treat a single case of measles.

The World Health Organization certified the United States measles free in the year 2000. But after an outbreak in New York that started last year, the US came dangerously close to losing the designation.

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Illinois public health officials are hoping vaccination campaigns help stop the spread of several prominent diseases. 

By immunizing as many people as possible, health care providers want to prevent disease from taking hold in Illinois. Dr. Nirav Shah is Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. He says right now there's an emerging threat from outside the state.

"A number of states across the country, including some of Illinois' neighboring states, have been experiencing very large outbreaks of Hepatitis A," he said.

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver infection caused by a virus. It can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to severe cases that require hospitalization.

Dr. Nirav Shah is the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). He says that Illinois currently has a lower number of cases compared to surrounding states that are experiencing outbreaks.

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Illinois county officials have about four months to figure out details of the rabies vaccination effort for cats.

Legislation signed into law this month by Gov. Bruce Rauner amended Illinois' Animal Control Act. Beginning in January, cat owners must vaccinate their cats for rabies and keep them updated from the age of 4 months. The second rabies shot must be done within one year of the first vaccination.

As with dogs, counties will be required to issue a vaccination certificate and a rabies tag, which they will give to veterinarians to distribute.

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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.

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Illinois parents who cite religious objections to not having their children immunized will have to get a doctor's signature confirming they've been informed of the risks. 

A new law requires parents of children entering kindergarten and grades six and nine to provide Certificates of Religious Exemption with a health care provider's signature if they opt out of vaccine requirements. Supporters hope it will reduce the number of religious exemptions, which have more than doubled since 2009.