A man who attempted to sneak into South Texas is being held by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement after officials found out he was infected with a rare drug-resistant tuberculosis strain.
The young immigrant from Asia was detained by border patrol when trying to sneak into the U.S. on November 27. During a routine medical screening at the Port Isabel Service Detention Center, the man was diagnosed with extensively drug-resistant TB, the San Antonio Express-News reports.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, XDR-TB can develop when first-line and second-line TB drugs are mismanaged, allowing for TB bacteria to become more drug resistant. Approximately 30 to 50 percent of people with XDR-TB will make a full recovery.
The case of XDR-TB represents only the third time since 2008 that the strain has been detected in Texas, according to state health officials.
“This is a very rare situation, and XDR is considered to be a very dangerous disease,” Carrie Williams, a spokeswoman for the department, said, the San Antonio Express-Newsreports. “But it’s not easily transmitted and we have no reason to believe community exposures have occurred.”
After the medical screening, the man was transferred to the unit’s airborne infection isolation facility. He is now receiving appropriate treatment from ICE medical staff.
“(TB is) very much treatable,” Subramanian Dhandayuthapani, a microbiologist at the University of Texas, said, according to the San Antonio Express-News. “But once they get infected with these multi-drug, extremely drug-resistant strains, it’s questionable because those strains are difficult to treat.”
Dhandayuthapani said that the ease of global travel has made it easier for TB to travel to the U.S. from other countries, and cross-border travel can allow strains of the bacteria to enter the U.S.