Immigrant illness: What you need to know about scabies and tuberculosis

Article author: 
Nicole Kwan
Article publisher: 
Fox News
Article date: 
9 July 2014
Article category: 
National News
Article Body: 

According to a recent claim from a Border Control union, illegal immigrants are coming into the United States with “active scabies and other illnesses,” while reports have surfaced from a camp in San Antonio of a tuberculosis infection. While common in other areas of the world, these two infections aren’t frequently seen in the U.S.

Scabies are a mite-type parasite that burrow under the skin, leading to itchiness and skin eruptions ...

Symptoms typically begin three to six weeks after infestation, and the disease can be treated with either oral or topical medication to kill the insects. Seven to 14 days after the first dosage, medication must be administered again to ensure the mites are eradicated.

The disease is not very common in the U.S., but has been found in homeless populations.

“It’s usually associated with poor housing, poor socioeconomic status, hygiene issues; think about people living in a crowded place for a long time,” Dr. Olveen Carrasquillo, an associate professor of medicine and chief of division of general internal medicine at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, told ...

Tuberculosis in the U.S.?

Another infectious disease of concern is tuberculosis (TB), which is caused by mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria. While the bacteria mostly attack the lungs, they can attack any part of the body, including the brain. Active TB is spread person-to person by droplets that an infected person expels when coughing. The droplets go into the lungs and take weeks – or even months – to grow.

Active TB is highly contagious and requires isolation and multi-drug treatments that take between 12 and 24 months to complete...

With immigrants coming from high-risk countries, most of them have latent TB, said Carrasquillo, who specializes in minority health.  This occurs when the disease remains in certain lung cavities but is not infectious. It’s typically detected by a chest X-ray and a sputum (mucous) exam. Patients are treated with medication preventatively for six months, in order to reduce the risk of their TB becoming active.

Little is known about how latent TB becomes active TB, Carrasquillo noted, but diagnosing and treating the latent form can prevent activation.

“It’s one of the most complicated diseases of all time,” he said ...

CAIRCO Research

United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)\

TB Drug Shortages

[...]  Shortages of drugs used to treat TB have been reported over the past several years and are of particular concern ... in recent years, isoniazid, a first line drug used in the treatment of TB disease and latent TB infection, was also in short supply
United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 

TB treatment

  • Direct costs are estimated at $17,000 per TB patient
  • Direct costs averaged $134,000 per MDR [antibiotic resistant] TB patient