Cause of death revealed for migrant boy who died in Chicago

The cause of death of a 5-year-old migrant boy who died in Chicago just before Christmas last year was revealed on Friday.

The heartbreaking event unfolded on Dec. 17 when Jean Carlos Martinez Rivero, alongside his family, returned to the Pilsen shelter on South Halsted and suffered a medical emergency.

Despite immediate first aid by shelter staff, which included chest compressions, Martinez Rivero died at Comer Children's Hospital.

According to the medical examiner, Martinez Rivero's cause of death was sepsis. He had a case of Group A Strep that quickly became fatal.

While city officials dismissed the notion of an outbreak, there had been clusters of illness at other shelters where people were sleeping on cots close to each other, including chicken pox and hand, foot and mouth disease.

"These are hard environments for people to rest and feel good and be able to take care of themselves," said Dr. Evelyn Figueroa, who toured the shelter where the boy was living. She runs a nearby food pantry and has spent most of her medical career working with homeless, immigrant and low-income populations.

About 2,300 people had been staying at the Pilsen shelter, a former warehouse near downtown. The space has about 10 isolation rooms for when people get sick, according to Figueroa.

Mayor Brandon Johnson released a statement expressing his condolences early Saturday morning after the medical examiner's office announced its findings.

"The City of Chicago coordinates medical screenings for all shelter residents, weekly on-site provider support, on-site vaccination events for COVID, varicella, and flu, and partnerships with a network of community health centers for other healthcare needs. All shelter residents are offered comprehensive medical examinations and care," the statement read.

Johnson also said the health department will continue to monitor and respond to all reportable cases of infectious disease across the city’s temporary shelter system.

On Saturday, Congressman Jesús "Chuy" García (IL-04) issued a statement on the medical examiner's report:

"The report confirming Jean Carlos Martinez’s cause of death, underscores the urgent need for more resources and improved conditions for the newly arrived migrants," García said. "I will continue pushing the Biden administration to provide more funding for cities like Chicago, to ensure that we can provide the care these families need."