Tuberculosis and the porous southern US border

Olive View Sanitarium in Sylmar, California. Here’s a picture of the complex before it was destroyed by fire in the 1950s

Sylmar is back in the TB news:

Sylmar tuberculosis unit sees some of the nation’s toughest cases:

“There is a big problem with drug-resistant TB in the United States,” said Dr. Glenn Mathisen, director of the infectious diseases department at Olive View in Sylmar.

Olive View has one of the most aggressive programs in the nation where those with the toughest multidrug-resistant tuberculosis can receive treatment, Mathisen added.

But that means patients must live at Olive View for months, more than a year if necessary, since even the most potent TB drugs available may not always work at first.

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“We can confine someone in quarantine until they have a positive smear,” he said.

That Olive View is home to one of four such units in the nation means the medical center has not only come full circle from its origins, but it plays an important role on the national public health scene when it comes to infectious diseases.

The hospital was first founded in 1920 as a tuberculosis sanitorium, at a time when the infectious disease had gripped industrialized society, hitting those who lived in crowded conditions and in big cities.
But with better drugs and awareness, TB dwindled and over time Olive View evolved into an acute care hospital.  Its TB past was further erased after the 1971 Sylmar Earthquake destroyed several buildings…

In 2011, the hospital opened its $53-million upgraded emergency department. The renovation included the high tech isolation unit that is equipped to withstand a bioterrorism attack.

But a few years before it opened, county officials wondered if it would be used.  Reports of tuberculosis continued to decline. Last year, there was a slight uptick — 666 cases in Los Angeles County, or a 7 percent increase from 2012. The cases were primarily among the homeless population.

About 80% of all of last year’s cases were among those who were foreign born and who were infected in their home countries,  according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health…

Now some other stories: Immigration crisis: Tuberculosis spreading at camps: Are the thousands of illegal immigrant kids housed in detention facilities happy and well fed — or are they living in disease-infested compounds shrouded in secrecy?

Well, it depends on who you ask.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) seems to think the children coming across the southern border are remarkably healthy. It’s a sentiment shared by BCFS — the Texas-based agency formerly known as Baptist Child & Family Services contracted to run camps at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio and Fort Sill in Oklahoma.

More than 7,000 children have been processed through the two camps, according to a BCFS official. They allege that only 119 children have been treated for lice, 22 for scabies, and one for the H1N1 Flu. BCFS says the most common illnesses seen at Lackland are fever, headache, upper respiratory cold and ingrown toenails.

However, at least a half dozen anonymous sources, including nurses and health care providers who worked at Lackland, allege that the government is covering up what they believe to be a very serious health threat.

Several of my sources tell me that tuberculosis has become a dangerous issue at both the border and the camps.

“The amount of tuberculosis is astonishing,” one health care provider told me. “The nurses are telling us the kids are really sick. The tuberculosis is definitely there…”

And, Two cases of active tuberculosis found in Central American immigrants brought to El Paso for processing: Two Central American immigrants brought to El Paso for processing have active tuberculosis, the National Border Patrol Council Local 1929 told ABC-7 Monday.

“We’re concerned for our agents and they’re absolutely concerned about taking something back to their families or contracting something from these people that we have to process,” Stu Harris from NBPC Local 1929 said. “It’s an unfortunate circumstance that we’re in. It’s going to continue to happen until something can be done in south Texas to secure the border…”

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Now these two cases are not necessarily going to be multi-drug resistant. But when you look at the overall picture: 80% of TB cases are “foreign born” and the “foreign born” are currently flooding across the border without any controls at all, one has to ask, What could possibly go wrong?

How many hi-tech isolation units does the US have?  Enough for a sudden increase?  How thoroughly are these kids being checked anyway?  The government seems to be trying to stop information from becoming public.

Even in the 19th century, there were checks on contagious illness and people were turned back. 

Obama, get a life!  You’re a Grade A idiot.