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Feds to deport TB kid, mother

LAWRENCEVILLE - A 17-year-old tuberculosis patient and his mother are going to be deported, authorities said Tuesday.

Francisco Santos and his mother, both of 1712 The Falls Parkway in Duluth, will be deported to Mexico when the 17-year-old is released from court-ordered isolation at the Gwinnett County Jail.

After going to Gwinnett Medical Center complaining he had lost weight and was coughing up blood, doctors determined the 17-year-old had the disease.

Santos was ordered into isolation Aug. 24 when he and his mother denied he had tuberculosis and threatened to leave for Mexico - their native country.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Richard Rocha said the teen was interviewed by ICE investigators, and an investigation into Santos' status in the United States began.

Rocha said Santos' mother voluntarily went to a local ICE office last week and admitted she and her son were in the country illegally. Authorities would not reveal Santos' mother's name.

"Once he is released by the Health Department he'll be in the hands of ICE, and we'll release him to his mother and they will both be deported," Rocha said.

Gwinnett County Health Department spokesman Vernon Goins said the court date slated for today to determine if Santos would be released was canceled.

Goins said the Board of Health presented the teen and his mother with a consent form, which they signed, agreeing he would take the required nine months' worth of medication after he is released.

"We're getting close to the end of the typical time period where he will no longer be contagious," Goins said. Three sputum tests (a test of the mucus) clear of tuberculosis will be required.

Goins said the first of three tests was collected Tuesday, and results will be available in the next day or two. Once the results are back, two more tests taken 24 hours apart must be clear of tuberculosis before Santos is released.

Goins said it will be up to Mexican authorities to make sure Santos is following the recommended medical plan once he leaves the country.

Going back to Mexico

Mexican Consul General Remedios Gomez said the consulate has been following Santos' case for the past few weeks.

Gomez said they have been involved from the beginning, making sure Santos was taking his medications and was responding to treatment.

As Santos and his mother prepare to go back to Mexico, Gomez said the consulate will make sure Santos returns safely, following the necessary precautions to travel.

"Health authorities in Mexico will make sure he continues the type of treatment he has to follow," Gomez said.

Santos' family

Throughout the past weeks, authorities with the Gwinnett County Board of Health had been concerned the 17-year-old may have infected others living in the same Duluth home.

A total of 13 family members, five of whom lived with Santos, were tested for tuberculosis. Four adults tested positive for the inactive, noncontagious form of the disease and are being treated, Goins said.

"Those four tested positive but are not actively ill," Goins said Wednesday. "Chest X-rays were negative, and we will treat them to keep the disease from developing."

Goins said as of Tuesday the Board of Health had tested all the people at risk of being infected.

The legal status of the remainder of Santos' family members is unknown. Rocha said Santos and his mother are the only two he knew of who were being deported.