Flu cases at migrant shelter highest since outbreak began

SAN DIEGO -- Health officials Wednesday confirmed 28 new flu cases among asylum seekers at a local migrant shelter, the most since the county began tracking a flu outbreak at the shelter last month.

The spike in new cases of "influenza-like illness" at the Bankers Hill shelter operated by Jewish Family Service of San Diego follows two days of new case confirmations in the single digits. Health officials with the county's Health and Human Services Agency have confirmed 186 flu cases since May 19.

The county is currently quarantining 51 asylum seekers and migrants at hotels around the county in an attempt to stop the flu outbreak. County health officials have now screened more than 1,000 asylum seekers at the shelter for the flu since May 19.

The county defines an outbreak as one person contracted an illness and a second person contracting it and showing symptoms within 72 hours. The county first announced the outbreak May 23.

Federal immigration authorities announced May 17 that they would begin flying detained asylum seekers from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas to San Diego for processing at local U.S. Custom and Border Protection stations like Brown Field. Once processed, the migrants are released into the county and often end up at the Bankers Hill shelter, which offers medical care and humanitarian and legal aid.

The transfers are intended to alleviate the strain on immigration agents in the Rio Grande Valley who argue they're overwhelmed by an immigration crush at the U.S.-Mexico border. According to the Department of Homeland Security, CBP agents detained nearly 140,000 people along the border last month, the most in any month since March 2006.

County officials say they plan to continue monitoring the outbreak and providing updates on new flu cases at the shelter. The county is also screening and treating people at the shelter who are not showing symptoms to prevent them from contracting the virus.

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