CDC To Help Chicago After 4 Cases Of Measles At Largest Migrant Shelter

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are supporting the city’s response after four cases of measles inside Chicago’s largest migrant shelter were confirmed this month.

The confirmed cases were two small children and two adults living at a Pilsen migrant shelter where a young boy died months earlier.

In a statement, the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) said the first shelter case was a young child who has recovered and is no longer infectious. The second child, a CPS student living in the shelter,  is “hospitalized in good condition.” The two adults are in “stable” conditions, according to health officials.

“The majority of Chicagoans are vaccinated against measles and therefore are not at high risk but we are strongly urging those who aren’t vaccinated to do so as soon as possible, new arrivals and all Chicagoans,” CDPH Commissioner Olusimbo ‘Simbo’ Ige said in a prepared statement. “It is by far the best protection against measles, which for the first time in years is in our city because of how contagious measles is. I anticipate seeing more cases.”

More than 2,000 new arrivals were living at the migrant shelter as of March 1, according to city data. CDPH dispatched a team of medical professionals to assess vaccination status, provide vaccinations, and screen shelter residents for symptoms. Since Friday, the city has vaccinated 900 shelter residents. More than 700 had previously been vaccinated. It takes 21 days for full immunity after being vaccinated, city health officials said.

“We have advised all unvaccinated and newly vaccinated residents of the quarantine period, but some of those residents have left the shelter, and I want to acknowledge that,” Dr. Ige said. “That is why we so strongly advise the unvaccinated to get the vaccine and to immediately quarantine if you have had contact with anyone with measles.”

The two shelter measles cases and another case in a Chicago resident reported on Thursday are the first measles cases confirmed in Chicago since 2019. Measles is a highly contagious viral infection that can be dangerous for unvaccinated people, especially babies and young children, according to the city health department.

Symptoms of measles include a rash, high fever, cough, and watery eyes. It can take seven to 21 days for symptoms to appear after a person is exposed, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health.

Early Friday at 1 a.m., city and shelter staff awoke residents to notify them of the first measles case and a mandatory lockdown. City officials did not provide more details, causing worry and confusion inside the shelter, according to migrants who spoke with Borderless on the condition of anonymity.

Migrants said some people who have been vaccinated have been allowed to leave the shelter, while others who have been vaccinated are being asked to quarantine for 21 days, one migrant told Borderless Magazine.

Since opening last fall, the industrial warehouse turned emergency shelter inside the Pilsen industrial corridor has been mired in controversy. In a Borderless investigation in December,  migrants detailed harsh living conditions, including unsanitary conditions, poor treatment from staff, spoiled and raw food and rampant illness spreading inside the shelter just days before a young boy died.

A recent Borderless investigation detailed how city officials ignored early warnings, including emails, dozens of hospitalizations and formal grievance reports before the boy’s death. Despite some changes at the shelter, migrants said conditions inside remain largely the same.

Chicago Public Schools notified parents of students in a letter Friday that a young, non-school-age child at a shelter was diagnosed with measles. “CDPH has advised all families residing at the shelter to remain in place and that no school-age resident at that shelter should attend school tomorrow, Friday, March 8,” the letter reads.

The school district worked with CDPH to determine vaccination status for all school-aged shelter residents.

“Out of an abundance of caution, CDPH advised families at the impacted shelter to keep their school-aged children in place and avoid attending school Friday. This will continue to be the case on Monday, March 11. We are working with our partners at CDPH to determine vaccination status for all school-aged shelter residents.”

In December, amid complaints of rampant chicken pox and other respiratory infections, five-year-old Jean Carlos Martinez Rivero died after falling ill in the shelter. He died of sepsis from Group A Strep. COVID-19, Adenovirus, and the common cold were contributing factors to his death, according to the autopsy report.

In a statement, the city said CDPH, the Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS) and other city agencies would establish a process to assess “the vaccination status of all shelter residents early Friday, March 8.”

The city has previously stated migrants are offered vaccinations upon arrival at migrant shelters.

City officials said DFSS was increasing meal services for migrants at the shelter, and CDPH would provide additional masks and other personal protective equipment for residents and staff.

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