An analysis and related commentary published in Clinical Infectious Diseases today provide in-depth examination of the deplorable and dangerous conditions in U.S. immigrant detention centers where seven children have died in the last 10 months. Together, the articles underscore an urgent imperative repeatedly cited by ours, and other societies of medical professionals, to investigate and remedy violations of human rights and the most basic standards of public health, infection control and medical practice that have been demonstrated in these facilities.
A natural death: the political battlefield of infections and migrant children's bodies, by Dr. Mark A. Travassos, MSc of the University of Maryland's Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health, presents compelling evidence of the fatal consequences of untenable overcrowding compounded by essential gaps in hygiene - including access to soap and water-- in infection control, medical oversight, access to prompt and appropriate medical care, vaccination and other routine health services, among the most vulnerable population.
While the detention of immigrant children at our borders is not unprecedented, the separation of children from their families by U.S. officials is, as Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society President Dr. Kristina Bryant, and working group Co-chair Dr. Betsy Herold note in their commentary, We Need to Address the Health of Children at the Border. The commentary also notes this practice has been accompanied, for the first time in a decade, by the deaths of children in U.S. custody. In addition, the commentary points to outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases, including measles, mumps, chickenpox, and influenza, that have threatened the health of surrounding communities, as well as staff and those detained in the facilities.
For more than a year, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, its HIV Medicine Association, the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society and the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America have expressed deep concern over both the practices and consequences of detaining large numbers of people, separating children from their families, ignoring standing medical guidelines, and withholding medical immunizations and other critical and routine health services, to individual and public health. We continue to call on Congress and the administration to respond.