By: Bethany Blankley
Ahead of the public health authority Title 42 ending on May 11, New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan instructed New York health-care providers to undergo several precautions and tests in light of an alarming trend of diseases spreading among illegal foreign nationals arriving from the southern border.
Title 42 was put in place to limit entry to the U.S. to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other communicable diseases during a public health emergency.
One month before it was lifted, Vasan warned, “COVID-19 continues to circulate in NYC.”
In addition to the coronavirus, he also expressed alarm about those arriving from countries who hadn’t been vaccinated for polio or the chickenpox and were coming from countries with high rates of infectious tuberculosis.
“Many people who recently arrived in NYC have lived in or traveled through countries with high rates of TB,” he wrote in an April 11 letter to physicians and health care providers.
“I am writing now to underscore how critical it is that health care providers take a wide range of considerations into account when working with” foreign nationals arriving from the southern border, he urged.
Everyone arriving must be screened for diseases and viruses, Vasan said, stating that “Vaccination rates for certain diseases are low in some of the most common countries of origin, with rates hovering around 50% for polio as an example.”
He instructed medical practitioners to assess everyone who hasn’t been screened since arriving for symptoms of active TB.
“Health care providers should also assess all immigrants who recently arrived in the U.S. for latent TB infection,” he said.
TB is an infectious disease caused by bacteria that primarily affects the lungs. Those infected with it spread it through the air by coughing, sneezing or spitting. TB’s preventable and curable.
Multidrug-resistant TB “remains a public health crisis and a health security threat,” the World Health Organization states. The organization also recently declared a worldwide health emergency related to the coronavirus was over.
In 2021, 1.6 million people died from TB, including 187,000 people with HIV, the WHO reports. Worldwide, TB is the 13th leading cause of death and the second leading infectious killer, the WHO states. In 2021, an estimated 10.6 million people reportedly had tuberculosis worldwide.
There’s also been an outbreak of chickenpox among families who recently arrived and are staying in shelters and other facilities in New York City, Vasan said. “Most cases have been among unvaccinated children, but cases have also occurred among young adults,” he said. “Children should be screened and vaccinated urgently with all needed recommended immunizations, including those required for school attendance,” he said.
“Young children of immigrant families should be screened for possible developmental or behavioral issues as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics,” Vasan also recommended.
Health care providers should also perform blood tests on all arriving children and pregnant and lactating women for lead poisoning, he said. Lead poisoning disproportionately impacts children and pregnant women “who recently arrived in the U.S. Some people may arrive from their countries of origin with lead burdens and compromised nutritional status,” he said.
Those arriving should also be screened for parasitic infections based on their country of origin, Vasan said, and practitioners should also “consider screening for other infectious diseases.”
“Medical screening may identify a wide range of infectious diseases and noncommunicable conditions and is recommended as soon as feasible upon arrival in the U.S.,” he states.
Vasan instructed all practitioners to document and report cases of infection. His letter also provides information on how to potentially bill Medicaid, help illegal foreign nationals apply to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, and receive a range of free counseling, legal and other services all at U.S. taxpayers’ expense.