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Border Agent Contracts Scabies After Handling Undocumented Immigrants

The agent's union said that border patrol is not prepared to deal with undocumented immigrants' health conditions.
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A border patrol agent was diagnosed with scabies after processing undocumented immigrants in Otay Mesa, California, the agent's union representative said. Ronald Zermeno, health and safety director for the National Border Control Council union, said the agent told him that he observed several people with open sores while screening them in preparation to be released to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Scabies is caused by a mite that burrows into skin and lays eggs, causing an intense itching and rash, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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In a letter to the chief patrol agent of San Diego's U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Zermeno said border patrol agents processing the undocumented immigrants were told that those arriving in California had been pre-screened for health conditions. Agents in California, however, were not advised to decontaminate themselves or their uniforms, he added. "This demonstrates that we are not properly trained to identify infectious disease and to properly respond when we suspect a disease," Zermeno said. Agents are "encouraged to use personal protective gear including latex or non-latex gloves, long-sleeve shirts, and to take precaution, including frequent hand washing," U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said in a statement without commenting on the specific case.


— Elisha Fieldstadt