Five children under the age of 1 have been diagnosed with the disease, Cook County public health officials announced Thursday. All of them attended a KinderCare Learning Center in Palatine, Ill., about 30 miles northwest of Chicago, and none of them were vaccinated, officials said.
Babies are among the most vulnerable to measles because they are usually too young to be vaccinated against the disease. Federal recommendations call for the first dose of measles vaccine to be given no earlier than 12 months of age.
Two of the five infants have confirmed cases of measles, and the other three are being tested but have been diagnosed based on symptoms, health officials said.
In a news conference Thursday, health officials said they expected more cases to emerge.
"There will be more cases.… We shouldn't be surprised about that," said Dr. Terry Mason, chief operating officer of the Cook County Department of Public Health, the Chicago Tribune reported.
The latest cluster was discovered a little more than a week after Illinois reported its first measles case of the year, also in northwest Cook County. In that case, an adult Cook County resident got sick in mid-January and later tested positive for measles. So far, health officials say they have found no link between that case and a larger, California-based outbreak linked to Disneyland.
County officials identified three locations where residents may have been exposed to the disease, including two in Palatine. All three locations were within five miles of the KinderCare center.
Officials said Thursday that they still don't know whether the latest cases are linked to the earlier confirmed case in Cook County or the still-growing outbreak that began in California, in which more than 100 people were sickened.
In a statement, KinderCare said it was "focused on ensuring the continued health and safety of the rest of the Palatine Center." The facility received a "deep clean" Wednesday night, spokeswoman Colleen Moran said, and any children or staff members who have not been vaccinated, including those too young to receive vaccinations, are being asked to stay home until Feb. 24.
Starting on Monday, staff members who work with infants will also be required to have the measles vaccine.
Moran said that although KinderCare centers encourage parents to discuss vaccination with their doctors, they don't require them for children attending their centers. "We understand that there are children that cannot be vaccinated, due to medical reasons or religious reasons," Moran told The Times. "We certainly wouldn't exclude those children from coming to our centers."
The Cook County Department of Public Health encouraged residents to protect themselves against the disease. "This situation continues to underscore the importance of getting vaccinated," the agency said in a statement.