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Hidalgo-County-SealEddie Olivarez, health and human services chief administrative officer for Hidalgo County, denied reports that many immigrants are bringing communicable diseases such as measles and swine flu into the United States at a Tuesday meeting.

“There have been less than 10 cases of chicken pox and no cases of measles found among the immigrants processed at the McAllen immigration center,” said Olivarez, in spite of reports to the contrary by the media. “There are cases of lice and scabies people have picked up during their long walks. But those are minor problems and not life threatening. People do not need to fear some epidemic disease will start at the center and spread throughout the community.”

According to Olivarez, the doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners that are working at the center are checking people as they come in and vaccinating them against communicable diseases. But most medical care was related to cuts, sprains and bruises the people acquired walking to get to the Valley. He said the medical problems being faced are not as large as some in the media have portrayed them.

Olivarez went on to explain there are three major areas of concern. The first area is the border protection provided by the Customs and Border Protection or Border Patrol. When immigrants arrive, they are taken to the center in McAllen to be processed before being sent to other areas.

The second area is at the Sacred Heart Church in McAllen, where many of the immigrants spend time after being released from the processing center and before boarding buses or planes to go to other destinations.

The third concern is construction of the children’s dormitories being built in McAllen to house immigrant children whose relatives have not yet been located. When asked where those children would go to school, Olivarez said they would not impact the local school district because Baptist Children’s Family Service would be taking on the project of providing an education to the immigrant children.

Olivarez said the situation is very sad as many children have nothing but the clothes on their backs when they arrive.

“We are so blessed in this country it is hard to imagine their plight, and the concern about them being illegal immigrants is overshadowed by the extreme need these children have,” Olivarez said. “It becomes a humanitarian issue.”

In other action, Olivarez told the Commissioners the annual Operation Lonestar would be taking place in South Texas from Aug. 3 through Aug. 8. This is an annual training for members of the National and State Guard on how to organize a large-scale medical operation. There will be sites from Brownsville to Laredo where a joint military and public exercise will provide training for future emergencies. Last year the operation provided medical services to 13,000 people from Brownsville to Laredo. About 6,000 of those served were in Hidalgo County.

There will be two sites in Hidalgo County. One site will be at Pharr-San Juan-Alamo High School in San Juan. The other site will be at Palmview High School in Palmview.

Military medical staff will be on hand to provide basic preventative health exams, including sports physicals.

A staff of dentists will provide non-surgical dental procedures such as cleaning of teeth and filling of cavities. There will be no procedures requiring oral surgery.

Vision testing will be offered at Palmview. Last year, more than 700 pairs of glasses were made for those who need them.

Olivarez said the event is notable because it is the largest scale military training exercise of its kind in the United States. All services are free to the participating public.

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