African Migrants At Texas Border Monitored For Ebola: Official

A Laredo, Texas public health official said that 20 migrants from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) were monitored for Ebola and other diseases.

African and Haitian migrants cross the river on the border between Guatemala and Mexico. Photo: Encarni Pindado

"We have 8 Congolese right now in one of our shelters and a dozen in Nuevo Laredo," said Dr. Hector Gonzalez during an April 4 meeting of the Laredo City Council. Gonzales is the director of the Laredo Health department, according to Breitbart

"For them, my concern was Ebola," said Gonzalez, who added "But, we're on alert to check that." 

Migrants wait at the Siglo XXI immigration detention center in Tapachula, Mexico
Migrants wait at Siglo XXI in Tapachula.

The current Ebola outbreak in the DRC is the second deadliest in history, with 772 dead out of 1,220 confirmed cases since the outbreak was declared on Aug. 1, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Of the latest fatalities, 24 people died in their communities and 18 died at Ebola treatment centers. 

That said, WHO on Friday announced that the current outbreak does not yet constitute a "Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC)."

Doctors without Borders and at least one Red Cross official disagree. 

"Whatever the official status of this outbreak is, it is clear that the outbreak is not under control and therefore we need a better collective effort," said Doctors without Borders emergency manager Gwenola Seroux in a written statement. "What is most important now if we want to gain control of this epidemic is to change the way we are dealing with it."

Top Red Cross official Emanuele Capobianco told NBC News on Friday that he is "more concerned than I have ever been" over the current Ebola outbreak. 

Another factor in the current Ebola outbreak is active skirmishes between local militant groups, while health workers have also come under attack. Many locals in the DRC also don't trust Western medicine, and many think that Ebola is a scam, or experiment. Reports have surfaced of villagers breaking their loved ones out of Ebola quarantine wards, and taking the infected bodies of their dead back home for burial

Fortunately in the DRC, a new, unlicensed vaccine created by Merck (VSV-EBOV) has shown 97.5 efficacy, according to the DRC's national research institute (INRB) and the World Health Organization (WHO). 

The DRC's national research institute (INRB) and the World Health Organization (WHO) analyzed data collected from May 1, 2018, to Mar 25, which revealed a vaccine efficacy estimate of 97.5% (95% confidence interval, 95.8% to 98.5%) for Merck's as-yet unlicensed VSV-EBOV vaccine.

Researchers looked at data from 93,965 people in 679 rings and 28,888 healthcare or frontline workers who were vaccinated. Only 71 of the vaccinated people got sick with Ebola, compared with 880 people during the same period who weren't vaccinated.

Of the 71 vaccinated people who became ill, 15 had symptoms beginning 10 or more days after vaccination, a period when vaccinees are thought to protect. Fifty-seven people had symptoms that began 0 to 9 days after vaccination, an interval when no protection or partial protection is thought to be in place. -CIDRAP

Meanwhile back in Texas, Dr. Gonzalez said that 2,800 migrants have been released at a Laredo bus station over the past two and a half months, and that the city government is working with charity groups to conduct health screenings. 

"We’ve had flu. We’ve had a couple of potential respiratory infections that could be communicable, but we ruled them out – [tuberculosis] and mumps," he said, adding: "TB is an ongoing issue in the state of Texas,’ the doctor explained. “Between Texas, California, and New York, we have 50 percent of the cases of TB and the border has the most. Brownsville has the biggest number of cases."

"We always have surveillance for different issues that I’ve expressed," Gonzalez concluded.