Residents of South Texas were on edge after a photo surfaced showing several illegal immigrants wearing face masks while in Border Patrol custody.
The photo, snapped and sent in to ABC affiliate KRGV by an anonymous viewer, shows several illegals standing and sitting outside of what appears to be the Anzalduas International Bridge, along the US-Mexico border.
The persons in the photo, about eight in total, appear to be wearing surgical masks and latex rubber gloves, leading to questions about whether the men were infected with communicable diseases.
Customs and Border Protection did not give details on the detainees, other than to say that the men did not have the deadly Ebola virus.
“No case or individual processed by CBP at Hidalgo-Pharr-Anzalduas Port of Entry on Oct. 13 was related to Ebola,” CBP responded in a statement.
CBP also said that it has ramped up health precautions at all US ports of entry and that it is working alongside the CDC to “develop policies, procedures and protocols to identify travelers that are known by US public health officials to have a communicable disease and to handle in a manner that minimizes risk to the public…”
From CBP’s statement to KRGV:
“When a traveler or alien is identified with a possible communicable disease or identified from information that is received from the CDC, CBP personnel will take the appropriate safety measures by donning personal protective equipment (PPE), to include gloves and surgical masks, which are readily available for use in the course of their duties. CBP personnel receive training in illness recognition, but if they identify an individual believed to be infected, CBP will contact CDC along with local public health authorities to help with further medical evaluation.”
Rather than halt connecting flights from Ebola-afflicted West African regions, the US Border Patrol has also stepped up health precautions at at least five major airports throughout the country, including Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Dulles International Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
While the agency was able to tamp down Ebola concerns, the fact that no specific explanation has emerged regarding why the illegal immigrants photographed were wearing protective gear will likely only lead to further public consternation.