8 new flu cases reported at local migrant shelter

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SAN DIEGO — San Diego County health officials announced the confirmation Monday of eight new flu cases at a local migrant shelter, but the outbreak among the shelter’s asylum seekers may be waning.

Officials with the county’s Health and Human Services Agency have confirmed a total of 149 cases of “influenza-like illness” since May 19 among asylum-seeking migrants at the Bankers Hill shelter operated by Jewish Family Service of San Diego. Monday was the first day of confirmed cases in the single digits since May 27.

The county is currently quarantining 27 asylum seekers in local hotels, also the lowest total since May 27, in an attempt to end the flu outbreak. County health officials have screened more than 800 migrants at the shelter for flu symptoms 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 in groups of around 130 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 humanitarian aid and services.

The transfers are intended to alleviate the strain on overwhelmed immigration agents in the Rio Grande Valley. According to the Department of Homeland Security, CBP agents are currently holding about 8,000 asylum seekers in their McAllen, Texas, facility, double its maximum occupancy.

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

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