Fargo City Commissioner accused Lutheran Social Services of hiding tuberculosis risk; makes motion to stop refugee inflow into Fargo

FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - A Fargo City Commissioner accused Lutheran Social Services of putting citizen's lives in jeopardy by failing to alert the community that some refugees have tuberculosis.

Lutheran Social Services, in conjunction with Fargo Cass Public Health, petitioned for additional funding of nearly $2,400 to Fargo’s City Commission meeting Monday night, for interpretive costs during tuberculosis follow-up testing and case management with refugees.

The petition was number seven on the Commission’s consent agenda.

City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn accused Lutheran Social Services of hiding the tuberculosis risk, and made a motion to stop refugee inflow into Fargo.

"I'll be making a motion that we stop allowing refugees to be placed in Fargo until we do health screenings," Piepkorn said. "We were told it was happening three years ago, clearly it's not."

Desi Fleming, the Director of Public Health at Fargo Cass Public Health, reported to the Commission that in 2018, there were 138 total tuberculosis "case managements" in North Dakota. Of those, 97 percent were latent cases of tuberculosis, of which less than 18 percent were refugees. Latent tuberculosis means that the disease is not transferable to others, said Fleming.

Latent tuberculosis can, however, develop into active tuberculosis at any time -- it can be spread if there is active disease.

"We had five active cases [of tuberculosis] in Cass County in 2018, of which none were refugees," Fleming said.

Fleming added that all refugees receive tuberculosis screening with a provider and are prescribed medication before they come to Fargo -- Fargo Cass Public Health only provides case management.

As for Piepkorn's motion to block refugees from entering Fargo, the Commission was unsure if they could even approve a motion of that kind.

Here's a link to Monday night's Fargo City Commission meeting: https://www.facebook.com/cityoffargo/videos/352184028932431/?epa=SEARCH_BOX