Case of Measles Confirmed in Pilsen Shelter; City Health Officials Ask Residents to Shelter in Place

The former industrial building at 2241 S. Halsted St. that has been converted into the city's largest shelter. (WTTW News)The former industrial building at 2241 S. Halsted St. that has been converted into the city's largest shelter. (WTTW News)

A young child living at the shelter for migrants in Pilsen that has been the subject of repeated complaints about unsanitary conditions was diagnosed with a confirmed case of measles, city health officials announced early Friday.

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City health officials asked the 1,896 residents of the former industrial building at 2241 S. Halsted St. to shelter in place until it can be determined whether they are vaccinated against measles and therefore immune to the infectious disease, according to a statement from Chicago Department of Public Health officials. That includes 95 children between the ages of 1 and 2, Ald. Byron Sigcho Lopez, whose 25th Ward includes the shelter, said.

“A case investigation is underway to determine who the child may have come in contact with while infectious,” according to the statement.

The child diagnosed with measles “has recovered and is no longer infectious,” according to the statement.

“Those who have been vaccinated can leave the shelter while those who have not been vaccinated will have to remain,” the CDPH said in its statement. “All unvaccinated residents will be screened for symptoms and offered the measles vaccine.”

Additional meals will be delivered to the shelter along with additional masks and other personal protective equipment for residents and staff, officials said.  

In all, there are 11,689 men, women and children in 23 city shelters after making their way to Chicago from the southern border, according to city data. The Pilsen shelter is the city’s largest.

Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th Ward), the chair of the City Council's Immigrant Rights Committee, made an unannounced visit to the shelter on Monday to assess the conditions facing the men, women and children living there.

Vasquez said that while the conditions were “not ideal,” the shelter's operation “seemed solid.”

However, Vasquez said he was concerned by a lack of isolation rooms for those who are sick with the flu and other illnesses.

“A warehouse was not designed for 2,000 people to live there,” Vasquez said, adding that the city should open more shelters to allow fewer people to live in crowded conditions. 

Mayor Brandon Johnson and his administration have closed five shelters since the beginning of February, as the number of migrants living in city-run facilities has dropped nearly 20% since mid-December, the most recent peak of the humanitarian crisis facing Chicago.

A 5-year-old boy, Jean Carlos Martinez Rivero, who had been living with his family at the Pilsen shelter died Dec. 17 after living at the shelter for several weeks with his family. His death was caused by sepsis and other viruses, including COVID-19, adenovirus and rhinovirus/enterovirus, according to an autopsy.

The Johnson administration received complaints about unsanitary and unsafe conditions at a Pilsen migrant shelter as early as late October, more than a month before the 5-year-old boy's death focused attention on the state of the facility, according to emails first reported by by WTTW News.

The case of measles confirmed in a shelter resident is the second case of the highly infectious disease identified by health officials in Chicago in less than 24 hours.

City health officials are looking for people who were at Swedish Hospital’s Galter Medical Pavilion, 5140 N. California Ave., between 8:30 a.m. and noon Feb. 27 and the No. 92 CTA bus between 9:15 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Feb. 27.

Measles is a serious respiratory infection that is capable of leading to pneumonia and other complications. Symptoms of measles include rash, high fever, cough, runny nose and red, watery eyes and can take from seven to 21 days to show up after exposure. Measles can be dangerous to those who are unvaccinated, especially babies and young children.

The cases of measles are the first to be confirmed in Chicago since 2019.  

Health officials said the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, or the MMR vaccine, is highly effective and remains the best protection against measles.

Last year, Illinois health officials confirmed five cases of measles.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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