Background. From January 2014–July 2014, more than 46 000 unaccompanied children (UC) from Central America crossed the US–Mexico border. In June–July, UC aged 9–17 years in 4 shelters and 1 processing center in 4 states were hospitalized with acute respiratory illness. We conducted a multistate investigation to interrupt disease transmission.
Methods. Medical charts were abstracted for hospitalized UC. Nonhospitalized UC with influenza-like illness were interviewed, and nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal swabs were collected to detect respiratory pathogens. Nasopharyngeal swabs were used to assess pneumococcal colonization in symptomatic and asymptomatic UC. Pneumococcal blood isolates from hospitalized UC and nasopharyngeal isolates were characterized by serotyping and whole-genome sequencing.
Results. Among 15 hospitalized UC, 4 (44%) of 9 tested positive for influenza viruses, and 6 (43%) of 14 with blood cultures grew pneumococcus, all serotype 5. Among 48 nonhospitalized children with influenza-like illness, 1 or more respiratory pathogens were identified in 46 (96%). Among 774 nonhospitalized UC, 185 (24%) yielded pneumococcus, and 70 (38%) were serotype 5. UC transferring through the processing center were more likely to be colonized with serotype 5 (odds ratio, 3.8; 95% confidence interval, 2.1–6.9). Analysis of core pneumococcal genomes detected 2 related, yet independent, clusters. No pneumococcus cases were reported after pneumococcal and influenza immunization campaigns.
Conclusions. This respiratory disease outbreak was due to multiple pathogens, including Streptococcus pneumoniae serotype 5 and influenza viruses. Pneumococcal and influenza vaccinations prevented further transmission. Future efforts to prevent similar outbreaks will benefit from use of both vaccines.