San Diego County Public Health officials are responding to an influenza outbreak among asylum seekers recently flown to San Diego from Texas by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“We have identified individuals with flu symptoms and are providing appropriate treatment,” said Dr. Dean Sidelinger, M.D., M.P.H., County deputy public health officer, adding that 16 asylum seekers have been reported with influenza-like illness.
“Those who are ill are being isolated, along with members of their families. Our staff, in conjunction with those of Jewish Family Services and others, are following established procedures to ensure these individuals and their families are well before they leave San Diego for other destinations,” Sidelinger said
Asylum seekers, primarily families, began arriving in San Diego County in October 2018 and from Texas on May 19. To date, more than 14,000 individuals who are legally in the country have been screened.
“We are taking all the appropriate steps that we can to contain this outbreak at this facility and to protect the public’s health in San Diego,” said County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Dianne Jacob.
In January, the County Board of Supervisors authorized using a closed downtown courthouse as a temporary shelter. It was refurbished and opened in March.
“Our early efforts to create a safe and professionally-staffed shelter for legal migrant families has protected the greater San Diego region,” said County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher. “Our rigorous screening process and attentive medical staff is what has allowed us to quickly identify this issue and take steps to address it.”
An outbreak in a single setting is defined as at least one individual diagnosed with influenza and another coming down with a flu-like illness within 72 hours. Outbreaks are usually seen in skilled nursing or other long-term care facilities, but also can occur in other group homes/congregate living facilities, such as detention facilities or overnight camps. San Diego County has experienced 27 outbreaks this flu season.
As asylum seekers continue to arrive from Texas and California, shelter operators will continue screenings and the isolation and treatment of anyone who is symptomatic. It can take up to four days after exposure for flu signs to appear. The County will provide updates on this outbreak until it concludes.