BP union fears contagious diseases may spread outside detention facilities

The Lackland Airforce Base in San Antonio experienced the first case of an immigrant with the H1N1 flu, and now, there are reports of immigrants infected with the swine flu in the Rio Grande Valley.

Action 4 News asked how the immigrants are being screened and what dangers this could pose for our local community.

National Border Patrol Council Local 3307 Vice President Chris Cabrera told us that two undocumented immigrants were diagnosed with H1N1 swine flu in the Brownsville and Fort Brown detention facilities this weekend. Shortly thereafter, two more came down with flu like symptoms, and he fears it may spread to the local community here in the Rio Grande Valley.

No showers, no pillows, no bedding, nothing, there TMs a lot of dust, a lot of dirt floating around in there-very grim conditions, described Cabrera.

He said detention facilities are temporary centers-unsterile and ill-equipped to be handling such a large number of immigrants.

We TMre just so overwhelmed, we TMre not outfitted, we TMre not designed to be a long term holding facility. You know everything there is just put together on the fly. We TMre not prepared to deal with something like this and so things are getting through, he said.

Cabrera explained that immigrants are only screened for symptoms. Two children in the Brownsville and Ft. Brown facility had a fever and were diagnosed by medical staff as having H1N1 swine flu. Then, two more came down with flu-like symptoms.

It TMs highly contagious just like the regular flu and anybody that comes in contact with him symptomatic or asymptomatic can potentially get H1N1 and spread it. It can be fatal, warned Cabrera.

He added that there are other types of diseases such as scabies that agents have caught from the immigrants.

The quarantine area is nothing more than a piece of yellow caution tape. Do not cross this line, if you cross this line, this is where the people with scabies are, the people with chicken pox, or whatever. So there really is no barrier between one and the other, said Cabrera.

He said that many diseases common in Central America could be diseases we haven TMt seen in our community for a very long time.

Scabies-it TMs a 2-6 weeks gestation period so you may have it for 2, 3, 4 weeks and not show any signs or symptoms, he told Action4 News.

Cabrera TMs biggest fear is that contagious diseases could spread and with so many immigrants being processed, they could be put in contact with the public before being diagnosed.

They are coming in and it TMs going to spread here to the locals in the Rio Grande Valley. These people are taking buses, planes, trains all over the United States and so they are going to be taking those diseases with them, said Cabrera.

Cabrera told Action4 News all the children diagnosed with the flu or H1N1 like symptoms are under 14 years old. He also said that a case of Tuberculosis was found in the McAllen detention facility.