Dear Ms. Malkin,
I have found you to be a thoughtful and reasonable individual as I have read your work over the last several years. It is a bit surprising to see you repeating medical information that is not true or is far more complex than you state. I refer to your column today.
Chicken Little Chuckie Schumer: America’s Disease-Fighting Phony
By Michelle Malkin • February 3, 2016 08:10 AM
People from Central and South America, ground zero for Zika and other infectious diseases including tuberculosis, dengue, Chagas, Chikungunya and schistosomiasis, make up nearly 15 percent of the illegal immigrant population in the U.S.
The conservative media have been full of similar statements for several years. Stories have quoted anonymous sources and rumors. The spokesmen for the union of Border Patrol officers have been especially good about hurling accusations of disease at the illegal immigrants surging across our border.
Those individuals may cause a great many problems in the United States but the data does not suggest that they are bringing diseases to our shores in abnormal numbers. Disease comes to the United States by airplane these days.
New York routinely has the greatest number of malaria cases each year because it is a travel center. Canada experienced its two largest recent measles outbreaks through travel, from the Netherlands and from California. The measles outbreak among the Amish in Ohio was flown back from the Philippines. The Disney measles outbreak most probably originated in the Philippines.
Please consider the information here. The illegal immigration problem is serious enough without false charges of disease being made.
Are recent illegal immigrants adding to the number of tuberculosis cases in the United States?
The number of new cases of tuberculosis in the United States has been falling every year for many years. The total number of reported cases in 2014 was 9,421, which was less than half the total in 1997, 19,751.
In the 1997-2014 time period, patients of Hispanic/ Latino ethnicity totaled 65,864. That was 26.5 percent of the total number of cases. Some 17,109 of the cases were in patients born in the United States. Nearly 25,000 of the foreign born had resided in the U.S. for five years or more.
Looking at the “Obama” time frame, 2008 through 2014, there were 21,655 patients of Hispanic/ Latino ethnicity. That number was 28.9 percent of the total of 75,106. About 25 percent of the Hispanic/ Latino cases of tuberculosis were in those born in the U.S. Another 46 percent were foreign born but had lived in the country for five years or more.
Another ethnicity is actually adding more to the number of tuberculosis case load. The Asian / Non-Hispanic ethnicity represents about equal numbers of cases as do Hispanic/ Latinos. Far fewer of this ethnicity are born in the United States, four percent for the period 1997-2014 and 4.4 percent for 2008 through 2014. Far more patients of this ethnicity were foreign born and had lived in the U.S. less than five years than those of Hispanic/ Latino ethnicity.
Based on actual data, Asian / Non-Hispanics are the ethnic group most responsible for bringing tuberculosis to the United States in recent years. I have the numbers if anyone would like to contact me for them.
Dengue is a mosquito borne illness. It has been epidemic nearly worldwide for over a decade. Hawaii is just seeing the end of an outbreak on its “Big Island” which arrived via one infected person who was then bitten by the local mosquitoes. They then were able to transmit the illness to others.
In 2003-2006, the Houston, Texas, area had a dengue outbreak which went undetected by public health authorities and physicians. The State of Texas reports that, from 2003-2012, four dengue cases from Cameron County in 2005 and one case from Hidalgo in 2008 were acquired in Texas, and does not include any cases discovered by the study.
Since 2010, repeated cases of Dengue have been locally acquired in South Florida. It appears that the virus may have become endemic in the region. Florida is very good at establishing where imported cases of mosquito borne illnesses are contracted. In 2010, the number one source of imported Dengue was Puerto Rico. In 2015, Cuba was the source of the highest number of imported dengue cases. Remember that locally acquired infections begin with imported cases who are bitten by local mosquitoes.
While it is certainly possible that immigrants are responsible for sparking the locally acquired dengue cases, neither Florida’s dengue cases nor the outbreak in Hawaii can be laid at the feet of people riding a train from El Salvador. Texas has seen some local outbreaks but hardly in a consistent fashion, and none at all in 2014 and 2015. Despite all the immigration to California, Arizona and New Mexico, those states have seen no local dengue.
Chikungunya is carried by the same mosquito species as dengue. Locally acquired cases of that viral illness have only appeared in Florida. In 2014 the number one country for imported Chikungunya cases was Puerto Rico. In 2015, where there were far fewer cases, the number one source was Nicaragua.
The mosquito that is the vector for transmitting dengue, chikungunya and Zika viral illnesses is found throughout the southeastern part of the United States, in areas where the climate is subtropical.
Both Hawaii’s and Florida’s experience shows that the risk to the United States from mosquito borne illnesses is due to the ability of a patient to climb onto an airplane and fly into our country in a matter of hours. I have personally talked with several people who have contracted dengue and / or chikungunya. I can assure you that no one with either disease is well enough to ride a train or hike through the desert. Many are unable to even get out of bed.
The CDC site on Chagas states: “The triatomine bug thrives under poor housing conditions (for example, mud walls, thatched roofs), so in endemic countries, people living in rural areas are at greatest risk for acquiring infection.” “CDC estimates that more than 300,000 persons with Trypanosoma cruzi infection live in the United States.”
Since few Americans live in homes with mud walls and thatched roofs, there is little habitat to be found for the vector insect. Several hundred cases each year are believed to be transmitted during pregnancy from mother to child. The few other documented cases of Chagas contracted in the United States were in people sleeping or working in seasonal buildings such as hunting camps or campgrounds, or working in barns.
The future health burden for Latin Americans with the illness is significant. The result of such an illness is, so far as we know, always fatal after a period of decades. These patients will eventually experience cardiac problems, including heart failure. They are, however, not contagious and will not be spreading Chagas in the population.
This parasitic worm is not found in the United States. CDC:
The parasites that cause schistosomiasis live in certain types of freshwater snails. The infectious form of the parasite, known as cercariae, emerge from the snail, hence contaminating water. You can become infected when your skin comes in contact with contaminated freshwater
As of 2014, the PAHO states tha only four countries are endemic for schistosomiasis, Brazil, Venezuela, Suriname and Saint Lucia. Treatment programs appear to have interrupted transmission of the parasite in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Antigua, Montserrat, Martinique and Guadalupe.
At this time, the only countries where schistosomiasis occurs that have a land route to the United States are Brazil and Venezuela. Neither nation is among those commonly recognized as countries of origin for the surge of illegal immigration that the United States has experienced in the last few years. All of the other current and past countries where the parasite could be found can only connect to the United States by air or ship.