Positive TB tests keep teen from being deported

LAWRENCEVILLE - Positive test results are keeping authorities from releasing a 17-year-old with tuberculosis and deporting him to Mexico.

Gwinnett County Health Department spokesman Vernon Goins said the department is looking for three negative sputum tests from Francisco Santos before releasing him from confinement at the Gwinnett County jail and turning him over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

So far the teen has only produced positive mucus tests.

"We've been collecting sputums about every 10 days, but none are negative yet," Goins said.

Santos was ordered into confinement by a Gwinnett County Superior Court judge after he denied having TB to Gwinnett Medical Center doctors and threatened to leave for Mexico.

The 17-year-old from Duluth was ordered into isolation Aug. 24.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Richard Rocha said the teen was interviewed by ICE investigators and an investigation into his status in the United States ensued.

Rocha said Santos' mother voluntarily went to a local ICE office in late August admitting she and her son were in the country illegally. Authorities would not release 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.

Mexican Consul General Remedios Gomez said the Mexican Consulate has been following Santos' case.

According to Gomez, the consulate will make sure Santos returns safely to Mexico while following the necessary travel precautions.

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

Throughout the past few weeks, Gwinnett County Board of Health authorities had also been concerned the 17-year-old may have infected others living in the same Duluth home at 1712 The Falls Parkway.

A total of 13 of Santos' family members, five who lived with Santos, were tested for TB. 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. "Chest X-rays were negative, and we will treat them to keep the disease from developing."

Goins said the Board of Health has tested all the people they believed could have been infected.

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