Migrant Related Measles Outbreak Challenges Chicago Officials

Chicago Measles Outbreak

By the first two weeks in March, Chicago was experiencing 10 cases of measles, a highly contagious viral disease not seen in the city since 2019. Eight cases were affiliated with the city’s largest migrant shelter, the “Pilsen” warehouse facility meant to hold 1,000 but holding as many as 1,900 migrants. In January, fears of diseases spread by such crowded conditions were expressed by humanitarian workers.

Two of the infected children attend Chicago public schools which do not require students in “unstable housing” to be vaccinated and are obligated to educate all children at the elementary and secondary level regardless of immigration status. (Currently 7,000 migrant children attend Chicago public schools.) Some parents have pulled their children from schools. Several Chicago area hospitals that have treated measles patients are said to now pose risks to the public as do some Chicago city buses.

A measles-infected person can spread the virus to up to 90% of people close by who are not immune and an infected person can spread the disease at least four days before and four days after the illness.

The viral disease can cause death and is especially dangerous in pregnant women. At least 98 Chicago migrants have been moved into a hotel for quarantine.

Soon after the first measles case surfaced, CDC personnel arrived in Chicago and 900 MMR (measles, mumps and rubella vaccines) were dispensed – though roughly three out of 100 measles vaccinated people will still get measles if exposed to the virus says the CDC.

chicago ambulance measles. image: youtube screenshot edited by NewsBlaze
chicago ambulance measles. image: youtube screenshot edited by NewsBlaze

Migrant Deluge

Like other sanctuary cities, Chicago has been deluged with illegal aliens, most due to Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s 2021-initiated Operation Lone Star (OLS) program. Intended to highlight the border crisis to Democratic cities that are less affected through busing and sometimes flying migrants to Northern and Midwestern locations, OLS has resulted in 40,400 criminal arrests – including 36,100 felony charges – 503,800 migrant seizures and 469 million doses of fentanyl seized according to the Texas governor’s office.

Rather than address the porous southern border that allows border crosses, including sick ones, free access to the U.S., Department of Justice has been locked in judicial fights with Governor Abbott claiming his barbed wire barriers and other migrant discouragement techniques are “humanitarian” abuses.

At the end of 2023, OLS migrants so inundated the city, they were housed at Chicago police stations and Chicago’s O’Hare airport.

Chicago residents have protested against several planned shelters which are funded by the state. In addition to concern about the quality of the neighborhood and crime, poorer Chicago residents have said they resent the free housing and food the migrants receive.

“These people are just getting off the bus and everything’s given to them,” said a demonstrator against a shelter in Chicago’s Brighton Park neighborhood which is 80% Hispanic in December. “As a taxpayer, I don’t think that’s right,” said resident Ricardo Palacios. In addition to the $138 million Chicago spent on migrant care in 2023 migrant food costs are projected to reach $100 million. Recently, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle estimated the price tag of continuing to shelter migrants will be $321 million – with taxpayers on the hook for $70 million of the amount.

Likely, due to citizen backlash, Chicago mayor Brandon Johnson limited migrants’ length of stay at the city shelter and has initiated evictions despite the measles outbreak.

US border. image: youtube screenshot edited by NewsBlaze
Illegal immingrants storm the US border. image: youtube screenshot edited by NewsBlaze

Fears of Xenophobia

Afraid of stirring up xenophobia, Mayor Johnson and his hand-picked Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health Dr. Olusimbo Ige are quick to dismiss any migrant role in the measles outbreak. In addition to enlarging the disease risk to all Chicagoans – “New arrivals and all Chicagoans should get the MMR vaccine,” said Dr. Ige – the illegals are also cast as victims. “We need to protect them from measles,” said Dr. Ige; “they came here without measles and now they have been exposed to measles and we have to do everything we can to protect them.”

Yet, according to Real Clear Investigations, legal immigrants are screened for diseases like measles, but asylum seekers such as those bused and flown to Chicago from the border are not. New York has seen a return of diseases once almost annihilated in developed countries like leprosy, TB, polio, chicken pox and measles writes the site, correlated with the migrant invasion.

Reporting on the etiology of the migrants is also unclear. “Many migrants who land in Chicago come from Venezuela where a social, political and economic crisis has pushed millions into poverty,” reported the Associated Press in March. “The situation along with doctor and drug shortages has affected the availability and affordability of routine care, as well as trust in medical institutions. Venezuela has reported one of the world’s lowest vaccination rates for children.”

Yet in August, “in the trenches” border reporter Todd Bensman told the American Spectator “Every Venezuelan I’ve ever met has been living prosperously and safely in neighboring countries like Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Brazil, and beautiful Caribbean island nations.”

Clearly the border chaos, especially when it is correlated with serious disease outbreaks, will be an important factor in the 2024 presidential election.

Martha Rosenberg
Martha Rosenberg is the Investigative Health Correspondent for NewsBlaze. Martha illustrates many of her stories with relevant cartoons. She was staff cartoonist at Evanston Roundtable.