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Reports of immigrant children carrying Tuberculosis into U.S.

Dr. Dennis Conrad, UTHSC, says no cause for alarm

SAN ANTONIO – According to the Associated Press, Texas health officials have confined three cases of Tuberculosis among children caught crossing the Texas-Mexico border.

Many unaccompanied young immigrants living in a temporary shelter at Joint Base San Antonio Lackland, while thousands are living in crammed conditions at U.S. Border Patrol Stations along the border.

Dr. Dennis Conrad, professor of pediatrics in the division of Immunology and Infectious Disease at The University of Texas Health Science Center, says TB is generally spread through close, prolonged contact with a patient who is contagious.

However, he says most people infected with TB never have symptoms and are not contagious, especially children 6 years old or younger.

The Associated Press reports Texas sees 1300 cases of TB annually.

Conrad believes reports of infected immigrant children should not raise concerns among the general public.

"It is roughly the same risk that has always existed due to the immigrant population," he said. "What's more important since those children are being housed together in close environments, is that their health care providers who care for them- they need to screen them for infectious diseases."

The most widely known symptom of Tuberculosis is coughing that can produce blood and tissue, which spreads bacteria into the air and generates infection among others.

People exposed to an infected and contagious patient can wear a face mask, gloves or gown over their clothing to protect themselves.

Meanwhile, since October, more than 52,000 children have been caught crossing into the U.S. illegally since October, reports the Associated Press. Most of them are from Central America.