County says immigrant kids pose minimal health risk

2014-07-18T20:00:00Z 2014-07-19T10:08:56Z County says immigrant kids pose minimal health riskBy Jamar Younger Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

The undocumented Central American children passing through a processing center in Nogales and staying in Tucson pose a very low health risk to county residents, according to a memo from county health officials.

The memo was in response to reports of an unknown number of pneumonia cases identified in unaccompanied minors who passed through the Nogales facility before they were transported to a military base in Ventura, California.

National media reported a possible breakdown in the screening process as a result of the cases, according to county officials.

But the children were screened properly and the illness was quickly detected, according to a memo sent Friday from Dr. Francisco Garcia, director of the Pima County Health Department.

About 5,000 children have passed through the Nogales facility, Garcia said in the memo. There are 273 minors currently staying at a shelter in Tucson, he said.

The Arizona Department of Health Services told Garcia that representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention responded to Nogales to investigate the outbreak of cases, according to the memo.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Chief Raleigh Leonard, the federally designated incident commander for the area, told Garcia that federal officials did not have any health concerns regarding the health and well-being of the children in Nogales, who are held at the facility for three days.

While at the facility, the children undergo a medical evaluation that includes multiple vaccinations, a brief behavioral assessment and a pregnancy test.

As of this week, children have not been allowed to travel if they have a temperature of at least 100 degrees or show flu-like symptoms, Garcia said in the memo.

Children who show symptoms or have an acute medical need are taken to health-care providers in Santa Cruz County, he said.

Garcia and federal officials say the children who have passed through the Nogales facility, as well as those staying in Tucson, present a “very low risk” to the health of county residents.

The Garcia’s conclusion was based on the current medical and processing system in place and the minimal interaction between the children and the public, as well as other factors, he said.

“The risk is really to these children and not to our larger community,” he said.

Contact reporter Jamar Younger at jyounger@tucson.com or 573-4242. On Twitter: @JamarYounger

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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