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A resurgence of deadly diseases: diseases once thought to be nearly eradicated in America, such as tuberculosis and leprosy, are now rising as illegal immigrants bring their health problems to our country.

Illegal immigrants not only drain American healthcare resources but also present a new threat: diseases once thought nearly erased from the American medical dictionary, as well as new ones never before seen, are emerging across the country.

As the late Madeline Cosman demonstrated in the Journal of the American Physicians and Surgeons in 2005, and other newspapers and health organizations have widely reported, illegal immigrants carry loathsome diseases for which American medicine is ill-prepared.

Time was, she wrote, referring to her immigrant grandfather, immigrants were tested for infectious diseases and then quarantined or shipped back to the old country. Anyone who has seen the second Godfather film remembers young Vito Corleone's arrival at Ellis Island. Diagnosed with smallpox, he landed in confinement. Or, like Cosman, many Americans know of the stories of grandparents and great-grandparents fresh off the boat from the old country. The authorities checked them for disease.

"Every legal immigrant before 1924 was examined for infectious diseases upon arrival and tested for tuberculosis," Cosman wrote. "Anyone infected was shipped back to the old country. That was powerful incentive for each newcomer to make heroic efforts to appear healthy. Today, immigrants must demonstrate that they are free of communicable diseases and drug addiction to qualify for lawful permanent residency green cards. Illegal aliens simply cross our borders medically unexamined, hiding in their bodies any number of communicable diseases."

Among the deadly maladies pouring across the border is tuberculosis, mostly wiped out in modern America, Cosman writes, "thanks to excellent hygiene and powerful modern drugs." But now, multidrug resistant tuberculosis has arrived in America via Mexico and other third-world countries. "MDR-TB," she explained, "takes 24 months [to cure] with many expensive drugs that cost around $250,000, with toxic side effects. Each illegal with MDR-TB coughs and infects 10 to 30 people, who will not show symptoms immediately. Latent disease explodes later."

TB cases in Virginia jumped 17 percent in 2002, but Prince William County, alone, she reported, witnessed a 188-percent increase. And there's more:
 In 2001 the Indiana School of Medicine
 studied an outbreak of MDRTB,
 and traced it to Mexican illegal
 aliens. The Queens, New York, health
 department attributed 81 percent of
 new TB cases in 2001 to immigrants.
 The Centers for Disease Control and
 Prevention ascribed 42 percent of all
 new TB cases to foreign-born people
 who have up to eight times higher
 incidence. Apparently, 66 percent
 of all TB cases coming to America
 originate in Mexico, the Philippines,
 and Vietnam. Virulent TB outbreaks
 afflicted schoolteachers and children
 in Michigan, adults and children in
 Texas, and policemen in Minnesota.
 Recently TB erupted in Portland,
 Maine, and Del Rey Beach, Florida.

Quoting the federal Centers for Disease Control, in 2005, the Washington Times reported that "people from outside the United States accounted for 53.3 percent of all new tuberculosis cases in this country in 2003. That was up from fewer than 30 percent in 1993. In 2003, nearly 26 percent of foreign-born TB patients in the United States were from Mexico. Another third of the foreign-born cases were among those from the Philippines, Vietnam, India and China."

If drug-resistant TB won't scare the politicians into doing something, perhaps Chagas disease will.

Chagas is really American trypanosomiasis and also known as kissing-bug disease. It was unknown in America until recently, but common south of the border where the reduviid bug lives. This odious little critter bites the lips and face and transmits a protozoan parasite. Cosman wrote that Chagas infects 18 million people annually in Latin America and causes 50,000 deaths. The disease can be transmitted through the blood supply. It is incurable, and death from Chagas is agonizing: "After 10 to 20 years [of infection], up to 30 percent will die when their hearts or intestines, enlarged and weakened by Chagas, burst. Three people in 2001 received Chagas-infected organ transplants. Two died."

In its aforementioned report, the Washington Times said, "The American Red Cross estimates that nationally, the risk of a blood donor having antibodies to Chagas or being infected with the disease is 1 in 25,000. The risk is 1 in 5,400 in Los Angeles and 1 in 9,000 in Miami. The Red Cross says it will begin screening donors for Chagas, once a suitable test is found." These data suggest the American blood supply is endangered. Some 15 million Latin Americans have Chagas, the Times reported, quoting one doctor who was "amazed" that only five cases have despoiled the U.S. blood supply since 1986. And "federal data," the Times reported, "suggest that as many as 10 percent of the approximately 1,000 Mexicans who emigrate to the United States daily probably are infected with Chagas."

Yet another scourge thought eliminated from the American medical scene is leprosy, or Hansen's disease. "Leprosy ... was so rare in America that in 40 years only 900 people were afflicted," Cosman reported. "Suddenly, in the past three years America has more than 7,000 cases of leprosy. Leprosy now is endemic to northeastern states because illegal aliens and other immigrants brought leprosy from India, Brazil, the Caribbean, and Mexico."

Reported the Columbia News Service in 2005, "about 130 new cases are diagnosed in the United States annually, "mostly among immigrants from areas such as Mexico, India or the Caribbean.... Over 100 cases were found in immigrants last year, more than double the number in 2000, and, while the number of cases is still comparatively small, some researchers believe the trend could lead to leprosy spreading to the U.S.-born population."

"It's creeping into the U.S.," the news service quoted Dr. William Levis, head of the New York Hansen's Disease Clinic. "This is a real phenomenon. It's a public health threat. New York is endemic now, and nobody's noticed." Levis told the news service he believes the United States is "on the cusp" of an epidemic "because we're starting to see endemic cases that we didn't see 25 years ago."

The reason: the huge influx of immigrants, many of them illegal.

The other diseases Cosman and health officials worry about are polio, dengue fever, malaria, Kawasaki disease, hepatitis, and typhoid.

Forgetting about the expense of providing healthcare to illegal immigrants, the diseases they bring demand a single, firm decision: secure the borders.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:IMMIGRATION
Author:Kirkwood, R. Cort
Publication:The New American
Article Type:Cover story
Date:Nov 27, 2006
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