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Boy, 5, dies after contracting COVID, Strep and 2 other viruses: 'Too much for a little body'

Jean Carlos Martinez Rivero died after he was rushed to the hospital from the migrant shelter where he was staying.
/ Source: TODAY

A 5-year-old boy in Chicago who was staying at a migrant shelter has died of sepsis, which developed after he contracted COVID-19 and Strep A.

The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office shared the update after the boy died in December in a report on Feb. 16, according to NBC Chicago. The report also said the boy, identified as Jean Carlos Martinez Rivero, had two other viruses that played a role in his death.

Jean Carlos Martinez Rivero
Jean Carlos Martinez RiveroNBC Chicago

The Chicago Department of Public Health initially said the boy died from a medical emergency. The city said boy's family had left the shelter on Dec. 17 and returned around 2:30 p.m. About 15 minutes later, staff called in a medical emergency and first aid was given to him. A short time later, he was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

“It’s too much for a little body. It really is sad,” Dr. Juanita Mora, an allergist and immunologist, told NBC Chicago.

“We have to remember that a 5-year-old has a very small amount of volume when it comes to bodily fluids. So, when an overwhelming infection like COVID-19 hits his body, and at the same time he gets strep throat, it starts going into the blood stream, it starts affecting the rest of the organs.”

Officials with the fire department told NBC Chicago they took other sick kids from the same shelter in the city’s Pilsen neighborhood to the hospital later that week.

“The City of Chicago again expresses our deepest condolences to the family of Jean Carlos Martínez Rivero,” Chicago Major Brandon Johnson’s office said in a Feb. 17 statement that confirmed how the boy died. “This is a tragic loss, and we appreciate the work of community partners supporting the Martínez Rivero family during this difficult time.”

A memorial for Jean Carlos Martinez Rivero on the ground next to candles during a vigil for the 5-year-old, who died a shelter in Chicago in December.Chicago Tribune / TNS

The statement added EMS workers tried to save him, while noting the steps taken to help people in shelters. 

“Ambulance services were called immediately when the family reported a medical emergency,” the mayor’s office said. “Shelter staff performed chest compressions on the child, but he tragically died shortly after arriving at the hospital." The statement added that shelter residents in Chicago "are offered comprehensive medical examinations and care."

Sepsis occurs when the body is fighting an infection and it triggers a chain reaction that can be life-threatening, according to the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Bacterial infections cause most cases of sepsis. Strep A is a type of bacterial infection.

Mora told NBC Chicago that it was likely that Jean Carlos experienced symptoms before he died. She added that parents should always seek medical care if a child has the following:

  • Fever that doesn't resolve
  • Excessive fatigue, sleeping a lot
  • Loss of appetite

Symptoms of sepsis include:

  • High heart rate or weak pulse
  • Fever, shivering or feeling cold
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain
  • Sweaty skin

If you or a loved one has an infection that is getting worse or just not getting better, seek medical care and ask about sepsis, the CDC advises.