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Chicago Officials Confirm TB Cases at Migrant Shelters

The cases add to the mounting concerns about health conditions at the city’s migrant shelters following the death of a 5-year-old and an outbreak of measles cases.

Mauricio Peña/Borderless Magazine

The cases add to the mounting concerns about health conditions at the city’s migrant shelters following the death of a 5-year-old and an outbreak of measles cases.

Chicago officials have confirmed a “small number” of tuberculosis cases at city-run migrant shelters Wednesday afternoon — once again raising concerns about health conditions at temporary emergency shelter facilities. 

The Chicago Department of Public Health confirmed tuberculosis (TB) cases among newly arrived migrants to ABC7 Chicago and The Chicago Sun-Times. CDPH did not disclose how many migrants tested positive for TB or identify which shelters were impacted.

At least five people were transported from the city’s largest migrant shelter in Pilsen to hospitals because of TB, according to one migrant who spoke to Borderless.

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On X (formerly known as Twitter), Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) criticized Johnson’s administration, demanding vaccination records for migrants and including a photo that showed at least three migrants with TB. 

The shelter — a former warehouse in a manufacturing district — is home to 1,334 migrants and also experienced a measles outbreak and the death of a child in the last few months.

In a statement, CDPH said they were “aware of a small number of cases of TB among new arrivals in a few different shelters over the course of the response,” said CDPH spokesperson Jacob Martin.

“CDPH continues to take cases very seriously in order to keep it contained,” Martin said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), TB is caused by a bacteria that typically attacks the lungs but can also attack other parts of the body. Symptoms include chest pain, fatigue, chills or coughing up blood or phlegm. 

TB can spread quickly in congregate settings, such as homeless and emergency shelters. According to the CDC, TB is “preventable and treatable in most cases” and can spread when “people with active disease receive ineffective or incomplete treatment.”

If not treated, TB can be fatal.

The news comes as the city has struggled to contain other infectious diseases at city-run migrant shelters.

Last month, measles was first recorded at a shelter, and cases have increased in recent weeks. More than 56 cases have been reported across the city, with a majority associated with the Pilsen shelter, according to CDPH.

The measles cases came after the death of 5-year-old Jean Carlos Martinez Rivero, who died of sepsis from Group A Strep in December. At the time of his death, he was also sick with Adenovirus, COVID-19 and the common cold.

Infectious diseases spread in the Halsted shelter for months with little medical attention or mitigation from the city, migrants told Borderless in an investigation published in December, before Martinez Rivero’s death.

Migrants spoke of chickenpox, the flu and other upper respiratory infections spreading, and another Borderless investigation found there were dozens of medical cases afflicting residents at the Halsted shelter, with at least 16 residents transported to the hospital in November.

Incident reports obtained by Borderless and filed by shelter staff revealed cases of ambulances being called for a four-year-old experiencing chest pain, fever and body aches; a resident with a facial droop; and a resident with a high fever who couldn’t feel their hands and feet.

After the first positive case of measles was discovered at the Pilsen migrant shelter, CDPH enforced a 10-day quarantine for shelter residents, which migrants have since described as confusing and startling.

Since mid-March, the CDPH, with support from the CDC, has vaccinated more than 5,000 migrants with the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine to contain the spread of the virus.

The city enforced a quarantining policy at the Halsted shelter requiring that young children stay out of school and childcare until at least 21 days after they are fully vaccinated against measles. The guidelines also stated that all shelter residents must receive a second dose of the MMR vaccine 28 days after their first shot if they were not previously vaccinated.