Posted on June 10, 2010

Tuberculosis Outbreaks at Palm Beach County Schools Spur Anti-Immigrant Tirades

Stacey Singer, Palm Beach Post, June 10, 2010

Anti-immigrant tirades on the Internet have health officials cringing as they work to contain tuberculosis outbreaks at two Palm Beach County schools.

Fair or not, in a year when the public schools absorbed more than 650 Haitian earthquake victims, much of the vitriol about the disease has been directed toward those unfortunate students.


{snip} Parents and children at both Seminole Ridge High School in Loxahatchee and Orchard View Elementary in Delray Beach want to know who the ill students are, to assess their children’s risk of becoming ill, too. {snip}


“Word’s gone around that it’s some girl who’s not from here,” said Joey Tooley, 16, repeating the name of a Haitian teenager he doesn’t know well. {snip}

Angel Portieles has spent days trying to recall whether anyone in his classes coughed a great deal and missed the last week.

“I think she might have been in my Spanish class,” he said.


The anonymous Web comments have been more heated, ranging from worried to hate-filled.

“Haitian refugees and illegals are carrying all kinds of diseases that we haven’t had here in decades,” one said.

“This is what you get when you open the borders to indigents,” said another.

“How many Haitians did we let into our country?” asked a third. “I’m sure none were screened at all.”

Not true, said the health department’s O’Connor.

First, there is no connection between the TB investigation and his agency’s response to the influx of earthquake refugees in January, he said.

Second, the Haitian quake refugees who entered the public schools had to meet the same vaccination requirements as all other students, under orders from Palm Beach County Health Department Director Dr. Alina Alonso, he said.

“It was Dr. Alonso [Palm Beach County Health Department Director Dr. Alina Alonso] who said, ‘We want them tested, we want them seen, and we want them to have their shots before they start school,'” O’Connor said. “All the refugees, before they entered school, were completely evaluated. All their shots were brought up to date.”


The health department is keenly aware that unusual tropical diseases and other germs can migrate to Florida with travelers, whether it’s malaria, Dengue fever or tuberculosis, he said.