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8-year-old Guatemalan boy who died in US custody had the flu, medical investigator says

Felipe Gomez Alonzo died just before midnight on Christmas Eve.
Credit: PAUL RATJE/AFP/Getty Images
Border fence is pictured in Anapra, New Mexico, near El Paso, Texas, Saturday April 7, 2018, where most of the border in the El Paso-Juarez area is fenced and heavily patroled by Customs and Border Protection.

An 8-year-old Guatemalan boy who died in U.S. custody on Christmas Eve tested positive for influenza B, according to the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator.

The medical investigator's office cautioned Thursday in a statement that the cause of death for Felipe Gomez Alonzo, who died just before midnight on Christmas Eve, was still under investigation. But it has been determined that he had the flu.

Felipe, along with his father, had been detained for a week after trying to cross the border illegally near El Paso on Dec. 18. Because of "capacity levels" in El Paso, they were moved to the Border Patrol station at Alamogordo, New Mexico, two days later, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said. The next day, Felipe was sent to a hospital after a border agent noticed Felipe was coughing and had “glossy eyes,” the CBP said.

After initially being diagnosed with a cold and a fever, Felipe was prescribed amoxicillin and Ibuprofen. The CBP said he was held 90 minutes for observation and released Monday afternoon. That evening, he was sent back to the hospital with nausea and vomiting and died hours later.

Alonzo was the second child in three weeks to die while being detained near the U.S.-Mexico border by U.S. authorities.

Jakelin Caal, 7, also Guatemalan, died Dec. 8. at an El Paso children's hospital after being detained with her father and while preparing to travel by bus to a Border Patrol station in New Mexico.

The back-to-back deaths prompted an outcry from immigration activists, politicians and human rights groups and raised questions about the Trump administration policies that have separated children and parents and filled detention centers.

Jakelin died two days after a grueling trip through the desert with her father along with 161 other migrants who had crossed the New Mexico border illegally. They were initially taken to a base in rural New Mexico that did not have running water, according to Democrats who visited it after the girl’s death.

Jakelin and her father were scheduled to travel by bus to a Border Patrol station in New Mexico when her father, Nery Gilberto Caal, told Border Patrol agents she was sick. She was taken to a children's hospital in El Paso where she died.

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