At Benson Magnet High School in Omaha, Nebraska, seven out of the 173 students and faculty, who submitted blood tests in the past two weeks, have tested positive for latent tuberculous (TB) infection.
In November, WOWT reported 191 students, faculty and staff who were exposed to the disease by a student diagnose with active TB. There were a total of 19 out of the 191, however, that did not submit to blood tests, so their TB status is unknown.
On December 9th, Breitbart News reported “Two hundred thirty seven of Benson Magnet High School’s 1,273 students, or 18.6 percent, are refugees, according to Omaha Public School’s District English Language Learner/Refugee Report, 2015-16.”
Dr. Adi Pour, the Douglas County Public Health director, who was interviewed by WOWT stated, “Our thorough investigation revealed no further risk of exposure to active TB disease at Benson High School. Seven individuals were positive for the TB bacteria, but they most likely have latent TB infections. They were contacted by phone and referred to their regular provider for antibiotic treatment to prevent development of TB disease.”
WOWT also reported that “Families of students who had a negative TB test have been notified by mail. Those letters were expected to arrive yesterday. After cross-checking records, it was determined that 191 people should have been screened for possible TB exposure. Of those, 90 percent participated in the free screening while others may have seen their own doctors.”
The Douglas Public Health Department spokesperson said that beginning in January 1, 2016 and ending in December 10, 2016, 11 of 13 people diagnosed with active TB were foreign born. These reports are slightly less then 2015 where 14 out of 16 cases were diagnosed and the 17 out of 18 cases in 2014.
With only 9 percent of the population in Douglas county being foreign-born, 89 percent of the TB cases since January 1, 2014 have been among that population. Those numbers show a huge increase from the country’s 66 percent rate of active TB diagnosed among the foreign-born in 2015 as well as the 82 percent rate reported in Nebraska in 2014.
Foreign-born refugees, coming to the United states, are recommended by the Center for Disease Control to get tested for latent TB within their first 90 days, however, the screening is not legally required. Between 70 to 90 refugees arriving in the U.S. complete this initial screening according to state reports, though eighteen states don’t record their screening data on refugees. Breitbart reported an estimated 11 percent in Florida are tested and approximately 35 percent in Vermont.
In August, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services told Breitbart News that “Twenty-five percent of the 4,848 refugees who completed initial domestic medical screenings in Nebraska during this five-year period [between 2011 and 2015] tested positive for latent TB infection (LTBI).”
According to the Refugee Act of 1980, resettlement agencies must monitor and treat refugees who arrive with health problems. Refugees who test positive for latent TB are supposed to be treated by a common drug regimen to stop the infectious disease from becoming active and potentially leading to death.
Certain states like Nebraska, does not have data on the number of refugees who received this treatment after being tested positive for latent TB.
The Douglas County Public Health Department and Nebraska’s Department of Health would not respond to Breitbarts inquiry’s on whether the 237 refugee students attending Benson Magnet High School, previously went through the initial domestic medical screening after arriving in the U.S. They also would not respond to whether those who tested positive for the disease, received the recommended TB treatment.
Out of four percent of the general population, tested for latent TB, it’s estimated that ten percent of that group will develop active TB sometime during their lifetime.
A 2013 study by the University of California in San Diego, as well as many other medical studies, show the health risk that refugees pose to the general population, with a higher rate of latent TB activated among refugees then those in America’s general population.
It is believed that one of the causes is a lower immune system among refugees, because of high stress and over crowded environments.
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