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Crossing the Line: Immigrants pose low public health risk
PASCALLE BIPPERT —
Media outlets flock to Karnes City Aug. 1, as the first of more than 500 undocumented women and children arrive to be housed in the Karnes County Residential Center.
The general public shouldn’t be concerned about the current influx of undocumented immigrants impacting public health, according to two local medical practitioners.
Daryl Currier, MD, PA, who operates three general medical practices in Floresville, Stockdale, and La Vernia; and Connally Memorial Medical Center medical director Leonardo Profenna, MD, MPH, spoke with the Wilson County News regarding concerns such as this one, raised in a comment thread at wilsoncountynews.com: “Keep those people away from me, thank you. I do not care to get sick.”
Both doctors couched their responses as matters of opinion, as no local practitioners have been asked to provide medical care or treatment. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Health Service Corps will provide medical and dental care for the women and children being housed in the recently renovated and renamed Karnes County Residential Center in Karnes City. The first of those residents arrived Aug. 1.
Currier said that although Texas is currently seeing an increase in such immigrants, other than the numbers, health concerns in this regard haven’t changed.
“We’ve been living next to an unimmunized population for a long, long time,” Currier said. “I don’t know if we’re going to see any exposure to diphtheria or typhoid, etc., but it’s unlikely.”
“Common diseases shouldn’t pose a threat to us if [the immigrants are] confined,” Profenna said. “They’ll be screened.”
The average stay for the immigrants in the residential facilities is 20 to 21 days, Profenna said, which is enough time for screening for communicable illnesses. Quarantine of those who are ill is likely, he said, and access to vaccinations for those who are unimmunized will be provided.
“The opportunity for exposure is relatively small,” Profenna said. “There’s a very low risk for us.”
According to www.ice.gov, “ICE Health Service Corps provides direct care to approximately 15,000 detainees housed at 21 designated facilities throughout the nation” and “oversees medical care ... to an additional 17,000 detainees housed at ... detention facilities across the country.”
The care received at such facilities is often the first professional medical care many immigrants have received. The screenings often identify chronic and serious health conditions that were previously undiagnosed.
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