Illegal immigrants from Mexico could be bringing a little something extra across the border: infectious disease.
When I first read about this, I thought it was being blown out of proportion. I suspected that this was something geared to stir up civil unrest against those crossing our Southern border. However, as more information comes to light, it appears this is a very real issue, one that could affect us all. Melissa Melton of the Daily Sheeple wrote:
“We are sending people everywhere. The average citizen doesn’t realize what’s going on down here,” Border Patrol Agent Chris Cabrera told ABC 15 News.
“We’re having an outbreak of scabies that’s been going on for a month or so now…We’re starting to see chickenpox, we’re starting to see [MRSA] staff infections, we’re starting to see different viruses…”
“They’re all contagious,” Cabrera continued. “So now we’re transporting people into different parts of the state, different parts of the country and some of these viruses are asymptomatic at this point — they’re not showing the symptoms.”
Well that’s just…lovely. (source)
Anyone who has seen the movie Contagion, with Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow, has a pretty good idea how easily airborne diseases can spread. The slow-motion special effects of saliva and nasal fluids paints a pretty alarming picture. (If you haven’t seen it you’ll want to check it out after reading this article.) With all of these people, many of them sick, being transported by our own government to far-flung locations across the country, it seems like we are begging for a pandemic.
Nope. You’re just “hysterical.”
The mainstream media is downplaying this influx of disease, calling reports about it “hysteria.” Despite confirmed cases of H1N1, measles, scabies, and tuberculosis, you’re just an anti-immigrant bigot if you’re concerned about disease.
Here are a few examples.
Fox News was smugly accused of “taking up where the KKK left off” when they reported on the germ invasion.
Let’s put this summer’s rhetoric into perspective: 1918 saw a worldwide flu pandemic during which at least 20m people died globally and as many as 550,000 died in the US alone. Sometimes called Spanish influenza because the first cases were diagnosed in Spain, little was known about who carried the flu and where it originated. But the infection knew no age, class, race or ethnic bounds – people all over the world succumbed to a simple but deadly flu.
However, US reporting on the Spanish flu and other diseases that arose at that time suggested erroneously that a surge in immigration caused the increased infections. In Denver, the Ku Klux Klan promoted anti-Italian sentiment by suggesting that the recent immigrants from Europe were responsible for the flu. Germans were accused of using the flu as germ warfare. Irish immigrants were charged with spreading cholera. Tuberculosis was dubbed the “tailor’s disease” because people associated it with Jewish immigrants. Italians were blamed for polio, too, despite the fact that they were least likely to contract it.
The terror of immigration-born epidemics was largely imagined, of course, but it fueled very real anti-immigrant fears and resulted in discrimination and oppression. Those once-racialized groups are now folded into “whiteness” such that their histories of immigration have largely been erased from national memory. Without significant immigration reform, I fear the stigma attached to immigrants on the Mexican border may not fade so fast. (source)
The official word is that in New Mexico, all is well on the immigrant front:
Hundreds of immigrants are being house at a federal facility in Artesia, but immigration officials claim there’s nothing to worry about…
Immigration and Customs Enforcement Officials, who are in charge of the Artesia facility, say New Mexicans have nothing to fear.
They say there have been no reported active cases of tuberculosis or any other deadly diseases.
In fact, they say every person entering the camp is screened for illnesses and if something contagious shows up they’re immediately quarantined. (source)
But a local reporter says otherwise:
“My sources inside a camp for illegals at Lackland Air Force Base say it’s one giant emergency room,” said Reporter Todd Starnes in an interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity Tuesday.
Starnes told Hannity detainee camps, like the one in Artesia, are full of children potentially carrying deadly diseases.
“They have kids that have scabies. They also say they have chicken pox and an all out epidemic of lice so severe they say the bugs can be seen crawling down the faces of the children,” Starnes said. (source)
Texas health officials have confirmed several cases of Tuberculosis – but don’t worry…it’s no big deal.
Dr. Dennis Conrad, professor of pediatrics in the division of Immunology and Infectious Disease at The University of Texas Health Science Center, says TB is generally spread through close, prolonged contact with a patient who is contagious.
However, he says most people infected with TB never have symptoms and are not contagious, especially children 6 years old or younger.
Conrad believes reports of infected immigrant children should not raise concerns among the general public.
“It is roughly the same risk that has always existed due to the immigrant population,” he said. “What’s more important since those children are being housed together in close environments, is that their health care providers who care for them- they need to screen them for infectious diseases.” (source)
An entire article on NBC.com was devoted to telling people how silly they are to have concerns. When Georgia representative Phi Gingrey, a retired physician, wrote a letter to the CDC expressing his concerns, it was strongly rebutted in the article.
“There is a long, sad and shameful tradition in the United States in using fear of disease, contagion and contamination to stigmatize immigrants and foreigners,” said Arthur Caplan, director of the Division of Medical Ethics at New York University’s Langone Medical Center and a frequent NBC contributor. “Sadly, this letter which rests firmly on innuendo and fear-mongering proudly continues this unethical tradition.” (source)
So, there you have it. It’s all nothing but rumor and fear-mongering from people who hate immigrants. Or maybe they hate Mexicans. Or maybe they hate Mexican immigrants. Either way, they’re just bigots. The people coming over here are perfectly fine, and there’s nothing to worry your pretty little heads about.
However…this article on Slate (I know, I know – a hotbed of liberalism, but this is a really good article) says that it is MORE than rumor – that we are, in fact, on the cusp of a national health crisis due to the slipshod way this is being handled. Please note that this was also written by a physician, Dr. Marc Siegel, MD.
But health care workers at these cramped, overwhelmed centers have not been speaking to the news media, so it is difficult to know exactly which diseases have appeared and how many cases there are. Large outbreaks have been reported of scabies, a highly contagious, intensely itchy rash spread by tiny insects called mites.
A senior spokesman for CDC told me that HHS is taking the lead in providing medical services for these centers in southwest Texas and Arizona. When a case of H1N1 swine flu was diagnosed in late June, 2,000 flu vaccines were flown in. Since it takes two to three weeks for a vaccine to confer protection, more cases of flu are likely within the centers. It is also possible that the disease will spread to the local community and beyond.
Drug-resistant tuberculosis also appears to have spread, with several counties in southern Texas reporting twice the usual average number of cases. TB is a disease that needs to be carefully monitored and screened for, a prospect that is not possible under the current circumstances.
Dengue fever, a potentially deadly mosquito-borne disease that causes fatigue, pain in the bones and muscles, and fever, and infects close to 100 million people worldwide every year, has been detected this year in southern Texas for the first time since 2005. Illegal immigrants, possibly from Mexico, are a likely source. If infected mosquitoes begin to breed here, we could see more outbreaks.
There have been reports of measles and chicken pox at the centers, both of which are highly contagious and can spread to other children who aren’t vaccinated.
A physician working to take care of any infected child must treat that child with compassion and appropriate medication. He or she should never provide substandard care or weigh in on the political issue of whether a child should be in this country or how he or she got here.
At the same time, immigrants in poor health or suffering from a communicable illness who enter this country illegally create public health risks. This is why we have such an extensive system for screening the health of legal immigrants in the first place before they are allowed in. It is not a political statement to say that the effectiveness of these screenings is being undermined if hundreds of thousands pass through our borders without them. Whatever the partisan arguments about how this crisis erupted, the most urgent question right now is how to prevent a public health crisis.
HHS told me that the CDC has now activated its Emergency Operations Center to Level III, which means it is on 24-hour alert to better coordinate and track their programs in support of what HHS is calling “the urgent humanitarian situation of unaccompanied children along the southwest border.” But calling it a crisis and working to contain it are two different things. It is clear that the CDC needs to be more involved immediately to help identify, treat, and contain emerging diseases. Putting a cone of secrecy around the health concerns of 50,000 children helps neither those who are sick nor those who are placed at risk. (source)
More about Scabies and Tuberculosis
Following is some information from the CDC website regarding scabies and TB. There are links to further information.
Scabies is an infestation of the skin by the human itch mite (Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis). The microscopic scabies mite burrows into the upper layer of the skin where it lives and lays its eggs. The most common symptoms of scabies are intense itching and a pimple-like skin rash. The scabies mite usually is spread by direct, prolonged, skin-to-skin contact with a person who has scabies…
If a person has never had scabies before, symptoms may take as long as 4-6 weeks to begin. It is important to remember that an infested person can spread scabies during this time, even if he/she does not have symptoms yet.
In a person who has had scabies before, symptoms usually appear much sooner (1-4 days) after exposure…
Scabies usually is spread by direct, prolonged, skin-to-skin contact with a person who has scabies. Contact generally must be prolonged; a quick handshake or hug usually will not spread scabies. Scabies is spread easily to sexual partners and household members. Scabies in adults frequently is sexually acquired. Scabies sometimes is spread indirectly by sharing articles such as clothing, towels, or bedding used by an infested person; however, such indirect spread can occur much more easily when the infested person has crusted scabies….
Products used to treat scabies are called scabicides because they kill scabies mites; some also kill eggs. Scabicides to treat human scabies are available only with a doctor’s prescription; no “over-the-counter” (non-prescription) products have been tested and approved for humans…
In addition to the infested person, treatment also is recommended for household members and sexual contacts, particularly those who have had prolonged skin-to-skin contact with the infested person. All persons should be treated at the same time in order to prevent reinfestation…
Items such as bedding, clothing, and towels used by a person with scabies can be decontaminated by machine-washing in hot water and drying using the hot cycle or by dry-cleaning. Items that cannot be washed or dry-cleaned can be decontaminated by removing from any body contact for at least 72 hours.
Because persons with crusted scabies are considered very infectious, careful vacuuming of furniture and carpets in rooms used by these persons is recommended…
Sleeping with or having sex with any scabies infested person presents a high risk for transmission. The longer a person has skin-to-skin exposure, the greater is the likelihood for transmission to occur. Although briefly shaking hands with a person who has non-crusted scabies could be considered as presenting a relatively low risk, holding the hand of a person with scabies for 5-10 minutes could be considered to present a relatively high risk of transmission. However, transmission can occur even after brief skin-to-skin contact, such as a handshake, with a person who has crusted scabies. In general, a person who has skin-to-skin contact with a person who has crusted scabies would be considered a good candidate for treatment.(source)
Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by a bacterium calledMycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria usually attack the lungs, but TB bacteria can attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine, and brain. If not treated properly, TB disease can be fatal…
TB is spread through the air from one person to another. The TB bacteria are put into the air when a person with TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, speaks, or sings. People nearby may breathe in these bacteria and become infected…
Symptoms of TB disease include:
- a bad cough that lasts 3 weeks or longer
- pain in the chest
- coughing up blood or sputum
- weakness or fatigue
- weight loss
- no appetite
- sweating at night
If you think you have been exposed to someone with TB disease, contact your health care provider or local health department to see if you should be tested for TB infection. Be sure to tell the doctor or nurse when you spent time with the person who has TB disease…
TB disease can be treated by taking several drugs, usually for 6 to 9 months. It is very important to finish the medicine, and take the drugs exactly as prescribed. If you stop taking the drugs too soon, you can become sick again. If you do not take the drugs correctly, the germs that are still alive may become resistant to those drugs. TB that is resistant to drugs is harder and more expensive to treat. (source)
What can you do?
So, if you’re the paranoid type (wink wink) here are some health precautions for you and your family.
Foremost, if you are truly concerned about potential pandemic disease, and you are in one of the areas where immigrants are being housed, you might consider practicing social isolation if possible. Most of us have to go to work and school, but if you can avoid going to places where large crowds gather, like the mall, church, the grocery store, etc., you will put yourself at less risk. Avoiding those who “look like” immigrants is not sufficient or practical. The people who work at the facilities are not immigrants – they might be the person in line behind you at the post office, the one at Walmart, touching the bottles of lotion and then putting them back – all it takes is one infected person leaving the immigration facility to infect dozens of people outside the facility, and then it’s game on.
In the event that a pandemic arises, it’s time to tap into that stockpile you’ve been building. You should have at least enough food and supplies in your home that you don’t need to leave for up to 6 weeks. You don’t want to have to run to the store when everyone else has the same idea. If you MUST leave your home, invest is some better quality face masks to reduce your susceptibility to airborne pathogens. I stock these: 3M Particulate Respirator 8612F Mask N95 FDA Approved, 2-Count (Pack of 2)
Tess Pennington, the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint: The Step-By-Step Guide To Help You Through Any Disaster, offers the following suggestions:
So what can you do to be ready for a pandemic outbreak?
- Store a two week supply of water and food. During a pandemic, if you cannot get to a store, or if stores are out of supplies, it will be important for you to have extra supplies on hand.
- Have a supply of face masks to wear around those who may be ill or exposed to the illness.
- Periodically check your regular prescription drugs to ensure a continuous supply in your home.
Have any nonprescription drugs and other health supplies on hand, including pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines, fluids with electrolytes, and vitamins.
- Talk with family members and loved ones about how they would be cared for if they got sick, or what will be needed to care for them in your home.
- Prepare a sick room for the home to limit family member’s exposure to the virus.
To decrease the chances of the virus spreading and infecting other household members as well as members of your community, it is important that every effort be made to limit exposure to the illness. Some considerations on how to prevent exposure to a pandemic outbreak are:
- Avoid close contact with those who are ill.
- Stay inside and avoid contact with others.
- Avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes during any pandemic.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
- Keep your hands clean. Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub or make your own natural hand sanitizer. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
- If you are ill, stay indoors or keep your distance from others.
- Keeping your immune systems up by getting lots of sleep, having a good diet and taking antioxidants in protecting your health. (source)
What do you think?
So…what is your opinion? Do you believe that the anti-immigration folks are fear-mongering? Or do you think that there is a serious health crisis on the horizon?
Thanks to DG for the article idea!
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