I’m balking at bringing up this recent political hot potato, but because it is specifically referencing science and infectious disease, I feel like I ought to throw in my two bits.
Rep. Phil Gingrey of Georgia recently voiced his concern that the children sent into this country illegally following political unrest in their home countries are likely to be brining many diseases across the border with them. What I take issue with are the diseases he is suggesting that these children might carry.
From a M. Richinick article posted on msNBC:
“Reports of illegal migrants carrying deadly diseases such as swine flu, dengue fever, Ebola virus and tuberculosis are particularly concerning. Many of the children who are coming across the border also lack basic vaccinations such as those to prevent chicken pox or measles. This makes those Americans that are not vaccinated – and especially young children and the elderly – particularly susceptible,” Gingrey, a longtime physician, wrote in the letter.
Gingrey defended his letter Tuesday.
“The border patrol gave us a list of the diseases that they’re concerned about, and Ebola was one of those,” he told NBC News’ Luke Russert. ”I can’t tell you specifically that there were any cases of Ebola, I don’t think there were, but of course Tuberculosis, Chagas disease, many – small pox, some of the infectious diseases of children, all of these are concerns.”
The disease that has caught the most attention is Ebola. And given the recent outbreaks of Ebola in West Africa, it would be a major concern if it were to be brought into the States. Fortunately, the only cases of Ebola ever reported are in West Africa (For the geographically impaired, Africa hasn’t been close to Central America since about 100 million years ago).
Another disease I would really, really worry about is Smallpox. Because there hasn’t been a recorded case anywhere in the world since 1978, it would be very bad if these kids had it.
Lastly, Chagas Disease. This one is at least possible. Lots of people do get Chagas Disease, and it is prevalent in Central and South America, where it is transmitted by its host, the Kissing Bug, which lives in thatch roofs and infects people sleeping in these homes by biting them and defecating on their faces. The infectious organism, T. cruzi, gets transmitted when these bite victims scratch at the bite and get the contaminated feces in the bite wound. Blood-to-blood contact can also spread this disease, but that is quite uncommon. So, again, I have to say I’m not too worried about Chagas Disease either.
Sorry for not putting more references in this post – perhaps I’ll edit it later. Right now I’d call it a rant. And… one last thing to add before I sign off: Gingrey is an OB/Gyn