Doctor Addresses Immigrant Health Concern

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    NEWSLETTERS

    As 140 undocumented immigrants make their way through the San Diego-area Border Patrol system, some residents voice concerns that they pose a health risk. NBC 7's Omari Fleming talked to a local doctor about those concerns. (Published Thursday, Jul 3, 2014)

     The arrival of 140 undocumented immigrants in the San Diego area has spurred concern among some residents, claiming the families pose a health risk to the region.

    U.S. Border Patrol agents worried about infectious disease donned face masks as they transported the women and children to facilities in Otay Mesa, Imperial Beach and Boulevard Station.

    At least ten of the Central American children who arrived Tuesday have been taken to area hospitals with unknown illnesses, and another ten have been quarantined with active scabies, according to Border Patrol agents.

    The concerns are valid, but only to a certain degree, said Lilia Schmidt, a medical doctor in Hillcrest.

    “If they were coming to our community, it’s no different than us going to their community,” said Schmidt.

    Along with scabies, Border Patrol agents say tuberculosis presents one of their major concerns. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics, a total of 9,945 cases were reported in 2012, and 63 percent occurred among foreign-born people.

    But Schmidt said both tuberculosis and scabies are curable and should not pose a risk with proper testing, treatment and follow-up.

    That last step is the hardest part.

    "Lack of follow up is a major concern because I think a lot of people get afraid that they don't want to follow up because they're concerned that someone will find out something about them and then deport them,” said Schmidt.

    Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say about 33 percent of immigrants do not return for court dates after their release.

    Schmidt said another way to battle against the spread of any illness is to ensure you are up-to-date on all your vaccinations.