2 cases of active tuberculosis found in Central American immigrants brought to El Paso for processing

EL PASO, Texas - Two Central American immigrants brought to El Paso for processing have active tuberculosis, the National Border Patrol Council Local 1929 told ABC-7 Monday.

"We're concerned for our agents and they're absolutely concerned about taking something back to their families or contracting something from these people that we have to process," Stu Harris from NBPC Local 1929 said. "It's an unfortunate circumstance that we're in. It's going to continue to happen until something can be done in south Texas to secure the border."

A person with a latent TB infection does not feel sick and does not have any symptoms. The only sign of the infection is a positive reaction to the tuberculin skin test or TB blood test.

Those with latent TB infection are not infectious and cannot spread TB infection to others.

Local hospitals treating migrants previously informed ABC-7 of cases of scabies and lice.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection sent the following statement regarding possible health risks and controls in place to minimize risks to its officers:

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection provides short-term detention for unaccompanied children who have entered the U.S. illegally and continues to work with our partner agencies to move them as quickly as possible to appropriate facilities.  U.S. Border Patrol agents have taken extraordinary measures to care for these children while in custody and to maintain security in overcrowded facilities.

CBP has public health controls in place to minimize any possible health risks.  Throughout the RGV Sector, we are conducting public health screens on all incoming detainees to screen for any symptoms of illnesses and contagious diseases of possible public health concern.  CBP has established Border Station Medical Units along with the Office of Health Affairs, at border stations in the Rio Grande Valley, where medical providers (physicians, physician assistants or nurse practitioners) conduct secondary medical screening and address minor medical issues. If any serious symptoms are present, individuals are referred to a medical provider or healthcare facility for treatment and medical clearance.

Generally, CBP personnel receive training in illness recognition, but do not physically examine or diagnose illness.  CBP officers and U.S. Border Patrol Agents contact public health authorities to help with further medical evaluation.  CBP and the CDC have worked in a collaborative interagency manner to develop policies, procedures, and protocols to identify when a person may have a communicable disease and to handle in a manner that minimizes risk to CBP personnel, other detainees, and the public.  These procedures have been utilized collaboratively by both agencies on a number of occasions with positive results.

Occupational health and safety guidance has also been provided to CBP personnel in the handling of subjects with signs of health-related symptoms. Our workforce has been provided and encouraged to use personal protective gear including latex or non-latex gloves, long-sleeve shirts, and to take precaution, including frequent hand washing.

In 2007, the CDC began implentation of the Culture and Directly Observed Therapy (DOT) Tuberculosis Technical Instructions in some countries.

"Priority for implementation is assigned on the basis of the country's tuberculosis prevalence, volume of US-bound immigrants or refugees, and contribution to tuberculosis prevalence in the United States," according to the CDC website.

An NPR report in March 2014 stated that physicians overseas picked up more than 1,100 cases in prospective immigrants and refugees prior to their arrival in the U.S. The cases include 14 people with multidrug-resistant TB, the CDC says.

The agency credits beefed up recommendations for pre-travel screening that require newer, more sensitive sputum-culture tests, according to the NPR article. The article also states that of the 1,100 cases detected about 660 would not have been identified under old guidelines.

Learn more about latent and active cases of TB at

comments powered by Disqus