‘Small number’ of tuberculosis infections detected at Chicago migrant shelters – NBC Chicago

A small number of tuberculosis cases have been detected among migrants in the city’s shelters, the Chicago Department of Public Health confirmed.

The Health Ministry could not share exactly how many cases have been detected or identify shelters. But the department said no cases of tuberculosis had been reported in the city following exposure to migrants positive for the infection.

Tuberculosis cases appear every year in Chicago, with about 100 to 150 infections detected each year, said Jacob Martin, a Department of Health spokesman. For this reason, the health department must sort through its data to determine which cases are new arrivals and which are other city residents. These figures will be made public once this analysis is completed.

“I wouldn’t call it an epidemic,” Martin said. “This is relatively in line with what we expect.”

These cases are not the same as the recent measles outbreak, because tuberculosis occurs every year in Chicago, while measles does not, said Dr. Emily Landon, an infectious disease physician at the University of Chicago Medicine and director executive medical officer of infection prevention and control at the hospital.

Tuberculosis can be cured with antibiotics, and transmission of the infection to others usually requires hours of contact between individuals. A person can also be infected with tuberculosis, but the infection remains latent in the body for years, similar to how chickenpox can persist throughout a person’s life and then eventually appear as shingles , Landon said.

About 10 to 20 percent of Central and South American residents have latent TB infections, Martin said, meaning they test positive for the infection but are asymptomatic and cannot transmit it to others. others. But he added that the Health Ministry was still determining which of the recent cases are latent and which are active infections.

When migrants receive care from Cook County Health, they are tested for tuberculosis, among other illnesses, Martin said. The department also prioritizes vaccinating people against a range of communicable diseases.

“We are literally still pushing for more people to be vaccinated. With these vaccine-preventable diseases, we can prevent their spread with vaccines,” Martin said.

These vaccines include COVID-19, influenza, chickenpox, and measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR). In the last month following the measles outbreak, the department administered about 6,000 MMR vaccines to migrants, Martin said.

For patients with active TB infection, the health department assigns each person a nurse case manager and conducts contact tracing.

Symptoms can include a bad cough that lasts three weeks or more, chest pain and coughing up blood, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. TB patients may also experience fatigue, weight loss, lack of appetite, chills, fever, and night sweats.

Anyone with latent tuberculosis can receive treatment that almost completely prevents reactivation of the disease, Landon said.

The problem is that children aged 5 and younger are getting tuberculosis, she said. And these cases probably occur more often in children than in adults, because some Venezuelan children are only partially vaccinated, if at all.

An Associated Press analysis found that Venezuela’s vaccination rate is among the lowest in the world. Experts blame much of the blame on current political unrest and the collapse of the country’s health care system.

Many Venezuelan children, for example, lack several of the ten vaccines recommended by age 12 months to protect against 14 diseases, including polio, measles and tuberculosis, the AP found.

“We don’t need to be afraid from an infectious disease perspective; the city is doing a great job managing the risk of infection,” Landon said. “And all the doctors in the city, especially the infectious disease specialists, are working very hard to provide good pathways for new arrivals that bring diseases that we already know about.”

These cases and other outbreaks are no reason to fear migrants, she added. Rather, it demonstrates the health risks they could face when coming to the city.

Public health concerns have plagued migrants for months, particularly those staying in urban shelters. At least 52 cases of measles have been confirmed in Chicago, and most stem from an outbreak in early March at the crowded Pilsen migrant shelter. It was the first time measles was detected in Chicago since 2019.

About two-thirds of confirmed cases were in children 4 years old or younger, while about a third were in adults ages 18 to 49, according to the city.

The Pilsen shelter is the same facility where a 5-year-old boy died in December of sepsis and a bacterial infection causing strep throat, according to an autopsy. Contributing factors to his death were listed as COVID-19, adenovirus and rhinovirus.

Other children staying at the shelter were also hospitalized at that time, as they complained of unsanitary conditions and overcrowding.

NBC Chicago

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