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Second Guatemalan Child Dead in US Custody Had Flu, Infection


FILE -Catarina Gomez Alonzo writes into the cement of her brother's tombstone after his burial at the cemetery in Yalambojoch, Guatemala, Jan. 27, 2019.

An 8-year-old Guatemalan boy who died while in custody of the U.S. border patrol on Christmas Eve died of the flu and a bacterial infection, authorities in the Central American nation said Monday.

Oscar Padilla, Guatemalan consul in Phoenix, Arizona, told The Associated Pres that a report on the autopsy of Felipe Gomez Alonzo was delivered in recent days and had found he died from the infection and "complications from influenza B."

The New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator said Monday that the report is still open and has not been finalized.

The office previously reported in a Dec. 27 statement that the boy tested positive for the flu based on swabs of the lungs and nasal passage, but that "determining an accurate cause of death requires further evaluation."

Gomez and his 47-year-old father, Agustin Gomez, fled the poverty of their home village of Yalambojoch and crossed in the United States on Dec. 18 at El Paso, Texas. They were detained the same day.

The father has said that the boy was in good health when they were taken into custody. But days later he had flu symptoms and was brought to a hospital, where he died.

Gomez was the second Guatemalan migrant child to die in U.S. custody in December.

An autopsy released Friday on the other child, 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin, found that her death Dec. 8 was also due to bacterial infection.

That report found bacteria in her lungs, liver, spleen and adrenal glands and said she suffered a rapid, progressive infection that led to multiple organ failure.

"We have not been able to establish where they were infected," Padilla said of Gomez and Caal. "We do not know if it was in Mexico or in border custody. What we know is that the children left their homes healthy."

Johana Samayoa, chief of chronic infections at the Roosevelt Hospital in Guatemala, said these kinds of infections typically have an incubation period of eight days and can be deadly if not treated, especially in combination with other factors such as malnutrition.

In recent days U.S. President Donald Trump has said he will cut aid to Guatemala as well as neighboring El Salvador and Honduras over Central American migration to the United States.