Artesia Community Concerned of Foreign Diseases Brought By Undocumented Immigrants, Doctors Discuss Risks

Artesia Community Concerned of Foreign Diseases Brought By Undocumented Immigrants, Doctors Discuss Risks

By Alicia Neaves

NewsWest 9

A major concern about housing those unaccompanied immigrant children crossing our border: the spread of disease. It's an issue they're trying to tackle in Artesia, New Mexico, just a couple of hours away from here.

Health risks are certainly one of the main concerns of officials and residents in Artesia, where hundreds of undocumented women and children where brought this week. NewsWest 9 investigated to see what those health risks are and what the state and shelters are doing to prevent them.

In the 29 federal resettlement shelters, nearly 60,000 vaccine doses have been distributed to the unaccompanied minors who made the trek from Central America to the United States. The spokeswoman for the Department of State and Health Services says, per request, they sent 2,000 vaccines to an international childrens shelter in South Texas.

"In this particular incident, we were able to get them vaccined quicker than their normal method of ordering through Vaccines for Children," Spokeswoman for the Department of State and Health Services, Christine Mann, said.

Through the Vaccines for Children program, minors under 19 years old are granted a free vaccination, by law, funded by Medicaid. But questions still remain for residents and officials of Artesia, New Mexico, where hundreds of undocumented women and children arrived this week.

"We all know that diseases and sickness in the Central American countries are different from those in our country and I have a concern and our citizens have a concern about health issues," Mayor of Artesia, Phil Burch, said.

Burch says he was assured the immigrants will undergo medical screenings before and after their arrival to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. They've also converted a building into a clinic where on-site treatment, if needed, will take place.

"To this point, they have not had an experience that there are these ominous diseases getting ready to walk in our community, but we don't know yet. Our citizens, and certainly I, will be concerned until those concerns are put to rest by actually having people here and getting reports on what their physical condition is," Burch said.

As New Mexico Congressman, Steve Pearce, said in our report Wednesday, shelters on the border are bursting at the seams. But can the overcrowding potentially harbor foreign diseases? Doctors say yes.

"With many unvaccinated or under vaccinated people in a small confined area, the risk for transmission of disease is high. Influenza, pneumoccal Pneumaonia, HIb, Rubella, Diptheria, and many others can be transmited in this timeframe and can incubate while not presenting any symptoms,"Director of Emergency Services at Midland Memorial Hospital, Dr. Brandon "Kit" Bredimus, said. "Once in the general population, it increases the risk of further transmission. Also, we are seeing a rising amount of parents not vaccinating children for fear of side effects. This is leading to resurgence of preventable diseases occurring in the US that could be further exacerbated by an influx of unvaccinated foreign nationals."