2 More Cases of Measles Confirmed in Pilsen Shelter, Bringing Total to 4: Chicago Health Officials

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

Two adults living at the shelter for migrants in Pilsen were diagnosed with a confirmed case of measles bringing the total number of cases at the city’s largest shelter to four, city health officials announced Monday.

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Both adults are “stable,” according to officials with the Chicago Department of Public Health. One of the children diagnosed with measles has recovered, while the other was hospitalized as of Sunday.

A team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will assist the Chicago Department of Public Health to help “contain the spread of the virus to the greatest degree possible,” Chicago health officials said.

Since the first confirmed case of measles was diagnosed in a shelter resident on Friday, approximately 900 residents have been vaccinated, officials said. 

Another 700 residents “were assessed and found to already be immune from previous vaccination or infection,” officials said. Some of those residents were moved Monday to another shelter, officials said.

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

Nearly 1,900 men, women and children sent to Chicago were living in the former industrial building at 2241 S. Halsted St. when the first measles case was diagnosed. The vaccination status of the remaining 300 people was unclear.

Those who are newly vaccinated or who are not vaccinated should remain in the shelter for 21 days, the incubation period for disease, officials said. Some residents who need to quarantine will be moved into hotel rooms, officials said. Similar efforts were used by city officials at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to stop the spread of another infectious disease.

As migrants arrive in Chicago and apply for shelter, they will be offered doses of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, or the MMR vaccine, which is highly effective and remains the best protection against measles. Once vaccinated, or if they can provide proof of vaccination, they will be placed into temporary shelters, officials said.

In addition, teams will be sent to the city’s other 22 shelters to offer vaccinations to those who need them and “mitigate the spread of measles to new settings,” officials said.

The first child diagnosed with measles, who is too young to attend school, “has recovered and is no longer infectious,” according to city health officials.

City health officials “strongly advise the unvaccinated to get the vaccine and to immediately quarantine if you have had contact with anyone with measles,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Olusimbo “Simbo” Ige said.

Before the four cases of measles were confirmed this week, 95 children between the ages of 1 and 2 were living at the shelter, said Ald. Byron Sigcho Lopez, whose 25th Ward includes Pilsen.

In all, there are 11,451 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 and has been the subject of repeated complaints about unsanitary conditions.

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.

Mayor Brandon Johnson’s 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 WTTW News.

At an unrelated event Monday, Johnson said city health teams were working to educate all Chicagoans about the need to get vaccinated against measles and combat any hesitancy.

In all, city health officials have identified five cases of the highly infectious disease in Chicago since Thursday.

The first, which sickened an Indiana resident who has recovered, does not appear to have resulted in any secondary measles cases in Chicago residents.

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. 

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

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

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