Illegal immigrants in NYC not vaccinated against polio, tuberculosis: health commissioner

“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.”

Approximately 50 percent of illegal immigrants coming into New York City are not vaccinated against the contagious and potentially deadly poliovirus.

The New York Post obtained an eight-page letter, dated April 11, that was sent to physicians and other healthcare providers by the city’s Health Commissioner, Ashwin Vasan, urging doctors to help prevent a public health emergency.

According to Vasan, the migrants come from or pass through countries with high rates of infectious tuberculosis and there have also been chickenpox outbreaks in shelters housing them.

“More than 50,000 people have come to New York City (NYC) in the past year shortly after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. As more people arrive and many make NYC their home, the scale and scope of need continues to grow,” Vasan wrote.

He added, “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 people who are seeking asylum. The scope of this letter represents the scale of the need. It is incumbent upon us as a welcoming city to comprehensively evaluate and meet these needs.”

The commissioner wrote that screening and vaccinating the illegals for diseases and viruses that have previously been kept at bay is a top priority.

“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.”

The polio virus, which can lead to paralysis, permanent disability, and death, spreads through person-to-person contact and can contaminate food and water in unsanitary conditions.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between two and 10 out of 100 people who have paralysis from polio die. This is  because the virus damages the muscles that help them breathe, as the virus lives in an infected person’s throat and intestines.

Vasan also wrote that it was important to test for tuberculosis, an infectious bacterial disease characterized by the growth of nodules in the tissues, especially the lungs, which is often contagious. “Many people who recently arrived in NYC have lived in or traveled through countries with high rates of TB,” Vasan added, and noted that the city’s Health Department clinics provide treatment at no cost to patients, regardless of their immigration status.

The commissioner said that migrants should be asked if they have TB symptoms, such as extended coughing and coughing with blood, fever or night sweats, and unexplained weight loss.

Another concern raised in the letter was migrants who have been infected with chicken pox, a highly contagious disease which causes an itchy, blister-like rash on the skin, but is not considered life-threatening.

Vasan also urged that the migrants be screened for trauma following the hazardous journey to get across the Mexico-US border and be checked for sexually transmitted diseases.

"For many people who are seeking asylum," he wrote, "finding refuge entails traveling long distances and enduring numerous experiences before getting help. Despite being resilient, many people seeking asylum are at elevated risk for experiencing poor mental health due to traumatic pre- and post-migration experiences and preexisting social and mental health conditions that can impair their ability to cope.”

The potential outbreaks are one of many concerns city officials have had to grapple with in absorbing the massive amount of illegal immigrants. Recently, Democratic Mayor Eric Adams estimated it could cost the city $4.3 billion to cover shelter, food, and other services for the migrants.

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