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Flu Outbreak Hits San Diego Migrant Shelter

An asylum-seeking boy from Central America runs down a hallway after arriving at a shelter in San Diego, December 2018.
Gregory Bull AP
An asylum-seeking boy from Central America runs down a hallway after arriving at a shelter in San Diego, December 2018.

UPDATE: 4:55 p.m. May 25, 2019:

Friday evening, the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency released new numbers showing the flu is continuing to spread among migrants flown into to San Diego from Texas by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The latest round of numbers show 13 additional people have a "influenza-like illness."

New Migrants Screened at County Shelter:


New Cases of Influenza-Like Illness:


Total Cases of Influenza-like Illness Since May 19, 2019:


Number of New Migrants Sent to Hospital ER, with Influenza-like Illness:


Current Number Currently Quarantined at Hotels:


Original story:

At least 16 people at a downtown San Diego family migrant shelter are suffering flu-like symptoms.

All of the flu patients arrived to San Diego from border processing centers in Texas, said San Diego County deputy public health officer Dr. Dean Sidelinger.

He said it is unclear if any of the patients came into contact with a 16-year-old Guatemalan boy who died of the flu in custody in McAllen, Texas earlier this week.

"The individuals who arrived to San Diego from Texas are flown by the federal government aboard planes, and again the individuals who presented with influenza-like illness, including the folks who have confirmed flu have all arrived by plane from Texas," he said.

Flu Outbreak Hits San Diego Migrant Shelter
By Reporter Susan Murphy At least 16 people at a downtown San Diego family migrant shelter are suffering flu-like symptoms.

Many of the ill migrants are children over the age of five, he said.

RELATED: Border Facility Stops Migrant Intake After ‘Flu-Related’ Outbreak

Migrants receive medical exams when they first arrive at the shelter to check for communicable disease, he said. As an added precaution, they’re now screened every day, and people with flu symptoms are being quarantined.

"And so as we identify someone in the family unit who may be ill, we are providing them the treatment that they need, providing preventative treatment to the family members, and isolating them together in a hotel room to try and prevent further spread of flu within the shelter itself," Sidelinger said.

The migrants are not mixing with the general population, so there are no risks to the public, he said.

More than 30 migrants tested positive for influenza at a major processing center in Texas where the flu-stricken teenage boy, Carlos Hernandez Vasquez, died. He was detained for six days, twice as long as generally allowed by U.S. law.

The processing center in Texas is a converted warehouse that holds hundreds of parents and children in large, fenced-in pens that gained international attention last year when it held children separated from their parents. The government closed the facility after the flu outbreak, sent in cleaning crews to disinfect the building and plans to reopen it soon.

The 32 sick children and adults have been quarantined at a smaller processing center, according to a U.S. Border Patrol official who spoke with reporters on condition of anonymity because there is an ongoing investigation. Their ages were unknown.

Since December, five children have died after being apprehended by border agents, putting authorities under growing pressure and scrutiny to care for migrant children. Kevin McAleenan, the acting Homeland Security secretary, came under withering criticism Wednesday from a Democratic lawmaker who called the administration's actions with children "inhumane."

RELATED: ‘Thank God We’re OK.’ Migrants Tell Of Conditions In A Texas Holding Facility

The Department of Health and Human Services, which cares for unaccompanied migrant children, said Wednesday that a 10-year-old girl from El Salvador died last year after being detained by border authorities in a previously unreported case. The girl died Sept. 29 at an Omaha, Nebraska, hospital of fever and respiratory distress, officials said.

The department began caring for the unidentified girl in March 2018, said spokesman Mark Weber, who described her as "medically fragile," with a history of congenital heart defects.

With the government running out of space to hold migrants, the Trump administration has been taking dramatic steps to keep up with the influx.

The Defense Department said Wednesday that it will provide temporary housing for at least 7,500 men and women who are taken into custody by immigration officials along the border. It will loan tents to the Department of Homeland Security, which will manage the camps.

The Defense Department will evaluate six potential sites over the next two weeks: Tucson and Yuma in Arizona and Tornillo, Donna, Laredo and Del Rio in Texas. Tornillo, near El Paso, is where unaccompanied children were housed last year.

The Pentagon said military personnel will only erect the tents and won't be involved in operations.

The 77,000-square foot (7,155-sq. meter) processing center in McAllen is modeled after a similar facility in Nogales, Arizona, built for an influx of Central Americans in 2014. It has separate pods for boys and girls who came alone and parents with their young children.

Some older children are split from their parents to avoid having them mix with much younger children.

Texas's Rio Grande Valley, which includes McAllen, is the busiest corridor for illegal crossings. The Border Patrol made 36,681 arrests in the area in April, nearly three of every four coming in family units or as children traveling alone.

Border Patrol agents have averaged 69 trips to the hospital a day since Dec. 22 and about 153,000 hours monitoring detained population at hospitals, the official said.

Authorities have also cleaned other holding facilities in South Texas, including Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Kingsville and highway checkpoints.

Migrants are not being vaccinated at Border Patrol stations, but they may be when hospitalized, the official said. The Border Patrol is offering vaccines to agents working.

In today’s San Diego News Matters podcast, at least 16 people at a family migrant shelter downtown are suffering flu-like symptoms. Also, say goodbye to plastic plates, bowls and cups when you go out to eat and the city’s Independent Budget Analyst says San Diego’s homeless program funding is "unsustainable."