Diseases can easily pass from one country to the next according to Hidalgo County Health Department director Eddie Olivarez.
“Believe it or not we also have illnesses that go from the U.S. south so it’s very fluid both ways,” he said.
A skin disease coming into the Rio Grande Valley concerns Chris Cabrera, a spokesman for the National Border Patrol Council.
He told Action 4 News about 10-25 percent of undocumented immigrants agents catch have scabies and now agents are concerned for their health and well-being.
“A lot of people (are) coming in with the disease, and it seems to be spreading, not just within the McAllen station, but throughout the Valley and to some of our agents,” he said.
Action 4 News received many unconfirmed reports of illegal immigrants being isolated for having confirmed cases of scabies.
We called the state and county who both referred us back to the U.S. Border Patrol.
We put in calls to our local congressman. Congressman Ruben Hinojosa confirms he’s received complaints and has launched an investigation.
In a statement he said, “I have made a formal request to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to investigate the reports of overcrowding and disease among the detainees at the McAllen Border Patrol facility.”
He made the request after watching an Action 4 News report that aired earlier this week highlighting those concerns.
Right now Border Patrol is not confirming the percentage of detainees that have scabies or whether any agents have contracted the disease.
The county health department could not comment directly on the issue but spoke about the health concerns surrounding the disease.
“The situation is that probably in the stash houses on the Mexican side or even on the U.S. side those stash houses are probably infected with this particular illness,” Olivares said.
Right now the Rio Grande Valley Sector of Border Patrol has detained nearly 150,000 undocumented immigrants, which puts the area on track to surpass last year’s total apprehensions of 154,453 just 8 months into the 2012 fiscal year.
With so many immigrants coming into the area there is a concern the disease could pass to the general public.
Olivares said if you come into contact with someone who has the scabies make sure to shower and wash your clothes.
If you show symptoms see a doctor.