California Health Official Silent on Immigration Status of Leprosy Patient

Leprosy AP

The Riverside County, California director of Disease Control is not revealing the immigration status of the elementary school child diagnosed with leprosy, or Hansen’s disease, or the unknown person infected with the disease who had “prolonged contact” with the child.

The child attends Indian Hills Elementary School in Riverside County’s Jurupa Unified School District.

According the the Press Enterprise, “Riverside County Director of Disease Control Barbara Cole said the child was infected through prolonged contact with another infected person.”

“That other person is not in Riverside County, said Cole, adding she could not provide more details,” the Press Enterprise reported.

Breitbart News contacted Cole and specifically asked about the immigration status of both the child diagnosed with leprosy and the person, not resident in Riverside County, infected with the disease with whom the child had “prolonged contact.”

Breitbart News also asked if the person infected with the disease was a resident of the United States, legal or otherwise, and if the “prolonged contact” with the child occurred in the United States or in a foreign country.

“I am not at liberty to comment on the Immigration status of the two individuals, nor the details of our investigation,” Cole tells Breitbart News in an emailed response on Friday.

“In the U.S., leprosy is rare. Around the world, as many as two million people are permanently disabled as a result of Hansen’s disease,” the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports. The CDC continues:

You may be at risk for the disease if you live in a country where the disease is widespread. Such countries include: Angola, Brazil, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Federated States of Micronesia, India, Kiribati, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nepal, Republic of Marshall Islands, and United Republic of Tanzania.

California resettles thousands of refugees every year, some of whom come from countries whose residents, the CDC says, are at risk of contracting leprosy.

Over the past five fiscal years, 31,527 refugees have been resettled in California, 1,107 of whom come from countries whose residents are at risk of developing leprosy.

One thousand and eighty-four refugees have been resettled in California during these five years from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 17 from the Central African Republic, and six from Nepal, all countries whose residents are at risk of developing leprosy.

Leprosy, or Hansen’s disease, is a condition identified as a health risk among arriving refugees by the CDC.

According to a recent CDC report, “Disease Surveillance Among Newly Arriving Refugees and Immigrants — Electronic Disease Notification System, United States,” one refugee arrived with a Class A Hansen’s health risk classification in 2009.

“Class A conditions are health-related conditions of public health significance that prohibit persons from entering the United States. In certain instances, persons may obtain a waiver for entrance,” the report notes.

“Hansen’s disease (leprosy), untreated multibacillary” is defined as a Class A condition.

“Class B conditions do not preclude a person from entering the United States. These conditions do not constitute grounds for medical inadmissibility and are defined as physical or mental abnormalities, diseases, or disabilities serious in degree or permanent in nature amounting to a substantial departure from normal well-being,” the report adds.

“Hansen disease, paucibacillary or treated multibacillary,” is defined as a Class B condition.

Those conditions are determined in the overseas medical screenings that take place prior to arrival of the refugees in the United States.

Current CDC guidelines for the initial domestic medical screenings of refugees conducted within 90 days of their arrival in the United States do not specify testing for Hansen’s disease.

There is no evidence to date that either the child diagnosed with leprosy, or Hansen’s disease, in Riverside County, or the person who had “prolonged contact” with the child, are resettled refugees.

From ancient times until less than a century ago, leprosy was an incurable, disfiguring disease that slowly but steadily caused body parts to deteriorate.

Lepers were often isolated from society and placed in remote colonies away from the general population, as was the case in the Kalaupapa Leprosy Settlement established on the island of Molokai in Hawaii during the 1870s.

Father Damian and Mother Marianne Cope served this community of lepers, which at its peak had a population of 1,200. It remained opened until  1969 when Hawaii ended mandatory isolation.

Since the 1940s, however, leprosy, or Hansen’s disease, has been treatable with antibiotics and is easily cured in most cases if caught in time.

According to the CDC:

Hansen’s disease (also known as leprosy) is a long-lasting infection caused by bacteria.

The disease was once feared as a highly contagious and devastating disease. Now, however, the disease is very rare and easily treated. Early diagnosis and treatment usually prevent disability related to the disease.

“Hansen’s disease is caused by infection with bacteria,” the CDC reports:

Evidence suggests that the bacteria that cause Hansen’s disease can spread from person to person. This might happen when someone with the disease coughs or sneezes. This can release droplets into the air. It might also happen if you are exposed to other nasal fluids (also known as secretions). Droplets and other secretions can contain the bacteria that cause Hansen’s disease.

If you breathe these in, you can become sick with the disease.

You may also be at risk if you “are in prolonged close contact with people who have untreated Hansen’s disease.”

If they have not been treated, you could be exposed to the bacteria that cause Hansen’s disease. As soon as patients start treatment, however, they are no longer able to spread the disease.

“Most adults around the world, however, might face no risk at all. That’s because evidence shows that 95% of all adults are naturally unable to get the disease, even if they’re exposed to the bacteria that causes it,” the CDC notes.

As for treatment, the CDC says:

Hansen’s disease is easily treatable. It’s treated for 6 months to 2 years with a combination of antibiotics.

If you are treated for Hansen’s disease, it’s important to:

tell your doctor about any potential nerve damage take extra care to prevent injuries that may occur (especially if you experience numbness or a loss of feeling in certain parts of the body).
take the antibiotics until your doctor says treatment is complete (otherwise you may get sick again)

In the U.S., people with the disease may be treated at special clinics run by the National Hansen’s Disease Program.

The Program receives Federal funds to run 11 clinics in 7 states and Puerto Rico. The clinics provide medical care for the diagnosis and treatment of Hansen’s disease-related conditions.

Confirmation of the leprosy diagnosis was made by the National Hansen’s Disease (Leprosy) Laboratory Research Program, as the Press Enterprise reported:

Lab tests have confirmed that a Jurupa Valley child has leprosy, or Hansen’s disease, Riverside County public health officials reported Thursday, Sept. 22.

The findings by the National Hansen’s Disease (Leprosy) Laboratory Research Program in Baton Rouge, La., supported a local doctor’s diagnosis that a student at Indian Hills Elementary School had leprosy.

A second student who may be related to the other child also had been diagnosed with the disease, but lab results did not confirm that the second person has leprosy.

News of the lab-test confirmation was provided to Jurupa Unified School District officials about 2 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 22.

School officials quickly alerted parents by phone and email, and district Superintendent Elliott Duchon drove to Indian Hills Elementary School to answer questions from parents.

The health status of the second child originally diagnosed with the disease locally remains unclear.


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