Polygamist Sect's Kids Face Health Issues

"There is not any doubt that unless these children grow up and remain in this sort of 'bubble' of a community, there would be some risk for these children, as they get older, to acquire these illnesses," Schaffner says. "If they left the compound or went outside the U.S., obviously there would be a risk."

For now, the biggest threat to these unvaccinated children is that of tetanus infection.

"If any child injures themselves and gets a cut or a scratch or other injury, there is always the risk of tetanus complicating that injury," Schaffner says. "The health care providers need to be reminded that the child has not been previously vaccinated."

Protecting the Children's Health

Despite the potential threat from lack of vaccination, health officials have not yet decided whether or not to start immunizing the children.

"The idea of vaccination is under consideration, McBride says, adding that to his knowledge, none of the children are legally exempt from getting the full complement of vaccinations.

But if and when such an effort does begin, Schaffner says that the children will likely be subject to a series of "catch-up" immunizations to help protect them against disease.

"It would be a period of weeks, and in some cases months, before all of these children could be protected ideally with vaccines," he says.

For tetanus, for example, a child receiving his or her first shot today would receive a second dose in about a month. The third and final dose would then be given six months to a year later. Only after that last dose would a child be fully protected.

But there are several diseases against which the children need to be vaccinated. And presenting these already traumatized children with a battery of several shots all at once could be a challenge, according to reports from some relief workers.

"I don't know what they've been told about us, but it's not good," Barbara Arendt, a volunteer who helped receive the children at the Baptist Church at El Dorado, told ABC News. "My understanding is that they are told we are from the devil."

Schaffner says the key to bridging these fears is education and understanding.

"These kids are going through a substantial culture shock," he says. "This has to be done with support, comfort, loving care and reassurance that this is what these kids need. You really have to impress upon a child that this is a good thing, that it will protect you and make you stronger."

And according to McBride, the substantial efforts to provide these children with health care are going smoothly so far.

"I think they're overall receptive to the medical care," he says. "In general they have been very grateful for the care, and I don't know of any real problems."

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