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Teen of undetermined immigration status jailed for TB

By Michelle Malkin  •  August 27, 2007 10:02 AM

Via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

When doctors told Francisco Santos he had tuberculosis Friday, health officials said the Gwinnett County 17-year-old refused to believe it.

Then the wiry, dark-haired youth refused to submit to any treatment. Worse, he said he was walking out of the Gwinnett Medical Center in Lawrenceville and heading back to his home country of Mexico, officials said.

“I think he was scared,” said David Will, attorney for the Gwinnett County Board of Health.

Gwinnett health officials found themselves in a bind. They had a person with a case of active, contagious tuberculosis, refusing treatment and threatening to carry the disease to a foreign country.

They also were aware of the recent incident involving Atlanta lawyer Andrew Speaker, who also has tuberculosis. After Speaker left for his wedding in Greece, a national news conference set off an international health scare.

In this case, the Gwinnett officials acted decisively: They put Santos in jail Friday evening, in a rare act of a government agency confining a sick person. Santos is the only inmate in a special medical isolation cell designed for inmates with contagious conditions. The cell, which measures about 15 feet by 20 feet, has a special ventilation system that keeps the air from reaching other inmates.

More about his, you know, irrelevant immigration status:

Santos listed his birth place as Mexico. Will said he did not know the status of Santos’ citizenship. The Gwinnett jail has two federal immigration agents who screen foreign-born inmates to determine whether to investigate their status and potentially place a hold on them for deportation.

As early as Monday, Gwinnett health officials expect to speak publicly about the extent of Santos’ disease and his treatment.

Right now, it remains unclear how long his confinement may go on. If he starts cooperating and obtaining treatment, he could be moved to a hospital and, when he is no longer contagious, sent home for further treatment. But if he continues his denials, the judge may commit him to a hospital with security for treatment, Will said.

See here for a medical journal article on the rise of TB among children in San Diego County.

And see here for a CDC paper on tuberculosis and immigrants in the US.

One more: Heather Mac Donald compares and contrasts the public health response to asbestos vs. TB.

Posted in: Tuberculosis

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Categories: Tuberculosis