Immigrants from Ebola outbreak nations caught along the border
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a level three warning for US citizens to avoid traveling to West African countries experiencing an outbreak of Ebola.
Immigrants from West African countries have entered the US illegally, according to Chris Cabrera with the National Border Patrol Council.
"Not too long ago we did catch some people, I believe, from Liberia," he said.
During the 2013 fiscal year, national statistics from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security website show Border Patrol agents apprehended 112 immigrants from Guinea, 231 from Liberia and 145 immigrants from Sierra Leone, which are the three countries currently experiencing the most cases of Ebola.
"Our main concern like it TMs always been is the health and safety of our agents," Cabrera said.
He worries agents are not properly protected in the event they come across an immigrant with the Ebola virus.
"Our agents are trained, however, they are not medical professionals," he said.
If an immigrant with the virus does make it past agents, he worries they could possibly pass the contagious virus to other immigrants while in a stash house like they saw recently during a scabies outbreak.
"Some of our agents did contract scabies, and some of the other things that illegal aliens had. Luckily it's not something deadly like Ebola," Cabrera said.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) confirms agents are trained to recognize signs of illnesses, including Ebola, and are told to contact to the CDC immediately if they find someone they believe to be infected.
The union worries immigrants with the disease may slip by because sometimes symptoms of the virus do not show up for 2-21 days.
"We need to be more pro-active about trying to prevent it from coming in as opposed to trying to contain it once its hear," Cabrera told Action 4 News.
CBP is working with the CDC to develop procedures to identify travelers and immigrants with contagious diseases.