Is America Prepared?
The latest illegal immigrant crisis is not only a risk to the safety and welfare of our country, it’s a tremendous risk to the health of our citizens, a looming and massive burden on taxpayers, and an elephant on the shoulders of our healthcare and public school systems. It’s also a ticking time bomb for an infectious disease outbreak on a scale not seen for more than a century.
Our first responders, law enforcement agents and military are putting their lives on the line every day for the protection of our communities and for the greater good. These front line folks are risking their health and their lives defending our borders and protecting our nation. They are an overwhelmed, overworked and too often under-appreciated group. First and foremost—regardless of any political or religious affiliation—we should all be thanking them for their tireless efforts and selfless sacrifices to protect our citizens and enforce our laws. Stop for just a moment to imagine our country without laws and without such people working to keep us safe.
New strains of pathogens bring new problems
In this latest issue, however, there’s much more to the story than the flood of illegal immigrants at our southern border. You hear bits and pieces in the nightly news. Border patrol agents report that this wave of illegal immigrants carries disease. One report from the Mayor of Murieta, California said that one-third of the illegal immigrants on just one of the buses that arrived in their town were infected with scabies. If you don’t know about scabies, it’s an infection caused by the human itch mite which can live on the skin for as long as two months and is transmitted from skin to skin, or from infested clothing or bedding. Think ‘bed bugs’ that do more than just bite… they are parasites that attach themselves to a host.
Other widely publicized reports say the illegal immigrants are carrying Chicken Pox, Tuberculosis (TB), Staph, MRSA and other viruses and bacteria. Some of the pathogens are reported to be new strains we haven’t seen before, including a new antibiotic-resistant version of TB. While most U.S. citizens get vaccinated for many of these illnesses, for some there simply are no vaccinations available, and for others, there are no readily available drug treatments (e.g. MRSA is the antibiotic-resistant strain of a Staph infection, which can be life threatening).
Such ‘superbugs’ coming across the border pose a significant and increasing threat of an outbreak to U.S. citizens and to the many border patrol, ICE, military and other agents handling this influx of people. Make no mistake, this crisis is bringing disease into the country en-mass on a level not seen since the flood of European immigrants came to the U.S. in the 1850s. Although we weren’t prepared then either, science stepped into high gear and worked to develop vaccines and antibiotics to help control and (in some cases) eradicate many diseases. Today it’s a much different story.
This ain’t your childhood Chicken Pox
The worst thing most Americans likely remember catching as kids was the Chicken Pox. Sure, it hurt. You itched, you scratched. You probably have a few left over scars in weird places you don’t discuss at dinner parties. But we didn’t face the threat of these type of superbugs, and we were not living in a post-antibiotic-overload era where drug resistance was an issue. The thought that our law enforcement and military are facing this on an unprecedented level is mind-boggling and frustrating, to say the least. They already sacrifice so much, and infectious disease just makes their jobs that much harder, not to mention it puts their innocent families at risk too, along with the rest of our citizens.
What can frontline personnel do to protect themselves, their families and the U.S. population?
If you are one of the selfless agents or military personnel handling and monitoring these individuals, the truth is, you have opened the door for cross contamination every time you touch, move, or interview one of these persons. Many of the pathogens are airborne, blood borne, and surface borne diseases. Some viruses and bacteria can live on fabric for days and other surfaces for weeks.
It’s important you take some definitive precautions while managing the illegal immigrant population:
- Run all of your uniform clothes on a sanitary wash cycle after every shift.
- Bag and seal any clothes you’re unable to wash after each shift until you are able to run them through a sanitary wash cycle.
- Wear gloves and eye protection, and if available, nose and mouth protection
- Contact management about finding a solution (fast!) to sanitize the entire facility and environments housing and transporting the illegal immigrants.
- Treat any open wounds with an antibiotic and be sure they are securely covered during every shift.
- If open wounds or sores persist, get medical attention immediately.
Where do we go from here?
The illegal immigrants are disappearing into the fabric of our communities by the hundreds every day. It’s reported that a large percentage are not showing up for their scheduled court appearances. Where does that leave us? It leaves us with an unprecedented mess.
The U.S. is sitting on a ticking time bomb of multiple, major outbreaks. We need to get proactive – and fast – about dealing with these pathogens at their source. The most critical areas are the facilities, transportation vehicles and planes being used to house and move the illegal immigrants between cities as they move through processing. A secondary priority should be other detention facilities where illegal immigrants may be likely to end up.
A call to action!
We’re calling on the citizens of the U.S. to demand that our government, military, first responders and law enforcement take action as soon as possible. Clearly, sanitizing the environments where the illegal immigrants are being managed should be a key priority in helping to contain and hopefully prevent a pandemic.
Thoughts? As always, don’t hesitate to contact me.