Central American Caravan Poses Serious Public Health Threat; TB, Dengue, Chikungunya
NOVEMBER 01, 2018
The caravan of Central Americans marching towards the United States poses a serious public health threat and could bring dangerous diseases into the country, a prominent physician in a key border state warns. “It’s insane to bring in migrants from any country without proper health screening,” said Dr. Jane Orient, executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. At her Tucson, Arizona practice, Dr. Orient, a graduate of the prestigious Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, specializes in internal medicine. In an interview with Judicial Watch she said that extremely drug resistant strands of tuberculosis are among the infectious diseases the Central American migrants are likely to bring in. Others include mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue and chikungunya that are widespread in the region.
Just this week a mainstream newspaper reported on the health crisis created by the influx of Venezuelans fleeing to neighboring countries. The migrants are spreading malaria, yellow fever, diphtheria, dengue, tuberculosis and AIDS throughout South America. Many of the diseases had been considered eradicated in the neighboring Latin American countries, according to government officials cited in the article, which states that “contagion from Venezuela’s economic meltdown is starting to spread to neighboring countries—not financially, but literally, in the form of potentially deadly diseases carried among millions of refugees.” As an example, the story reveals that “measles reappeared with a vengeance” in a Brazilian city near the Venezuelan border that had declared the highly contagious airborne disease “vanquished” nearly two decades ago. “Measles is already spreading beyond the Brazilian Amazon to other Brazilian states, as well as Colombia, Peru and as far south as Argentina, according to recent Pan American Health Organization reports,” the article states. “Other diseases racing through communities in Venezuela are now crossing borders and raising concerns among health authorities as far away as the U.S.”
The U.S. could face a similar situation if the caravan of Central Americans—at last count around 7,000—is allowed into the country. “Of course it could happen here,” Dr. Orient said, referring to the health crisis ignited by Venezuelans in South America. She points out that even legal immigrants are not screened as they should be. “The government is putting kids with lice and scabies and other health issues in American schools without people knowing the health risks,” Dr. Orient said. When immigrants arrived at Ellis Island they were properly tested for diseases and quarantined, Dr. Orient points out. Now they’re allowed to stay in the U.S. without proper health screenings and many get relocated throughout the country, further risking the spread of diseases.
Years ago, when Barack Obama let tens of thousands of illegal immigrant minors into the country, health experts warned about the serious health risks. Most of the Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) came from Central America, like the current caravan, and they crossed into the U.S. through Mexico, in the same way that the caravan expects to. Swine flu, dengue fever and Ebola were among the diseases that the hordes of UACs brought with them, according to lawmakers and medical experts interviewed by Judicial Watch during the influx. At the time, a U.S. Congressman, who is also a medical doctor, told Judicial Watch about the danger to the American public as well as the Border Patrol agents forced to care for the UACs. The former lawmaker, Phil Gingrey, referred to it as a “severe and dangerous” crisis because the Central American youths were importing infectious diseases considered to be largely eradicated in this country. Many migrants lack basic vaccinations such as those to prevent chicken pox or measles, leaving America’s young children and the elderly particularly susceptible, Gingrey pointed out then. To handle the escalating health crisis the CDC activated an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) that largely operated in secrecy.
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