JUNE 21, 2007
A tuberculosis outbreak at a South Carolina poultry plant is yet another example of the serious threat presented by illegal immigrants who health officials say were infected in their home country before coming to the United States.
So far 131 workers at the Greenville plant have tested positive for the fatal decease that primarily affects the lungs but can also spread to the kidneys and spinal column. State health officials began testing workers a few weeks ago after the first individual confirmed active tuberculosis. So far 286 employees have been tested.
An official with the South Carolina Department of Health said the plant’s percentage of TB cases is unusually high because most of the workers come from other countries where the disease is more prevalent. In fact, foreign-born people account for most of the TB cases nationwide and the greatest number (25%) come from Mexico.
The situation is becoming a crisis in the Carolinas because every year thousands of illegal immigrants go there to work in poultry, construction and other industries. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that there are about 300 new TB cases a year in South Carolina alone.
This is because, unlike legal immigrants who must first submit to a health test, those who enter the country illegally may carry a variety of contagious and fatal deceases that will go undetected until communities are seriously threatened.
TB outbreaks at U.S. poultry plants are nothing new because they tend to hire lots of illegal immigrants as recent immigration raids have proven. Back in 2002 the National Institutes of Health published an alarming report attributing a TB epidemic in Delaware’s poultry plants to the fact that most workers were from Mexico and Guatemala, countries where the decease is prevalent.
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