The American medical system is already overstressed with the problems of an aging population. How will it cope with epidemics of imported infectious diseases, some unfamiliar to American physicians, and some incurable?
An ever-growing caravan of thousands of migrants originating in Central America is determined to force its way into the U.S., having already breached the southern border of Mexico, violently tearing down barriers and even assaulting Mexican police officers.
What invisible travelers are accompanying them? And what infections are already here in the millions of illegals already dispersed throughout the country?
In the past, waves of immigrants from Europe were stopped at Ellis Island, medically examined, and quarantined long enough to be sure they were not incubating a contagious disease. Procedures are less rigorous today, and of course those who enter illegally are not screened at all.
The U.S. is currently seeing cases of a polio-like illness that paralyzes children, sometimes permanently. This year, 62 cases have been reported, and 386 cases since August 2014. Coincident with resettling about 70,000 children from Central America in 2014 there were 70 cases of polio-like paralysis and a thousand severe respiratory illnesses from the “mystery virus” enterovirus D68.
Typhus, which is flea-borne, has been reported in Los Angeles. Severe epidemics of hepatitis A are occurring in San Diego. Mosquito-borne dengue and chikungunya are spreading in Latin America. Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis and extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis are increasing threats, especially in poor countries.
Questions for candidates:
- What should be done to protect American schoolchildren from exposure to exotic infectious diseases that may be carried by migrants?
- Should the CDC and state health departments be doing more to track the location and health status of migrants who appear for treatment in medical facilities or register for school, so that the sources of outbreaks can be identified?