Let me start by saying that, yes, Ebola is a legitimate concern and individuals traveling from west Africa to the United States (or anywhere else) are a possible threat for the spread of Ebola. However the belief that immigrants, legal and otherwise, coming to the United States from Latin America, will spread Ebola in the US is promoting hysteria and nonsense. Immigrants and Ebola do not belong in the same conversation. Individuals from Latin America will not give you Ebola. Period.
As you may have heard from a variety of social media, an Ebola patient has been found in the United States. This, combined with the fact that he is being treated in Texas, has sparked a freak out among self described border hawks. This trend began with individuals like Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) warning that people coming from Latin America will be spreading Ebola among us. This recent case found in Texas has supposedly given validity to this view. It has not.
Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, has openly stated that not only does he not expect this to spread widely in the United States but also it is currently being strictly controlled and is limited to literally one person in the entire US.
This person did not come from Latin America, but traveled to Liberia and had returned to the United States by September 19th. By the 25th he had shown symptoms and requested care on the 28th. He is being treated at Texas Presbyterian and is currently being quarantined. Here’s why we should not be worried about Ebola coming from Latin American immigrants from our southern border.
1. Ebola isn’t in Latin America.
It just isn’t. The CDC has come out and outright said that every naturally occurring instance has come from Africa. Period. Children (and adults) coming from Mexico, Central and South America simply have not come in contact with anyone with Ebola. So take a breather.
2. Ebola isn’t likely to spread in the United States.
Jose Aguayo from the CEHJ has explained why Ebola isn’t a major threat that will kill thousands in the United States due to the major differences in public health between west Africa and the United States. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t treat it seriously but it also means we need to keep it within perspective.
Unlike Rep. Rokita and Mr. Donald Trump, who tweeted earlier that no one with the virus should be allowed in the US, trained public health officials know that survival for Ebola patients depends on the quality of the treatment. The locations in the West African countries where the outbreak originated lack the basic medical necessities, such as gloves, clean needles, etc. to prevent the spread and treat the infections. The US government has these things in abundance and so any claim that US citizens should be left to die in the infected areas is not only bogus, but deeply un-American.
3. Latin Americans are ironically less likely to spread diseases than American citizens.
Not only is Ebola off the table when it comes to Latin (and Asian for that matter) immigration, but in addition Latin American countries that send a lot of immigrants to the United States are more likely to be regularly vaccinated and therefore, less likely to spread disease. For instance, people from Mexico, Cuba, Panama, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are more likely to be vaccinated against diseases such as measles when compared to Americans.
4. Walking through the southern border with Ebola is near impossible.
The last reason why we need to stop worrying about Ebola spreading from our southern border is due to the physically brutal ordeal it is to pass through the US-Mexico border, especially illegally. For an individual making the trip from Mexico or Central America into the United States entails a trip of hundreds or thousands of miles (depending on where one starts), through mountains, treacherous road and being exposed to the elements, while burning through thousands of calories a day on a limited diet.
An individual who contracted Ebola would find this journey virtually impossible. The fatigue, fever, loss of fluids, and shortness of breath, combined with a relatively quick incubation period, means that a person walking hundreds of long miles would find themselves physically incapable of completing the journey into the United States.
Ebola is a serious health crisis that does warrant our attention, concern and help, both private and public. However individuals who drag traditional immigrants and immigration routes into the Ebola issue are frankly being irresponsible and drifting attention away from where it needs to be; monitoring travel to and from west Africa and treating the disease where it originates. Neither of which require maintaining high barriers to immigration, denying asylum to Central American children or closing the US-Mexico border.
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Joseph Laughon is a lifelong Republican and a proud Mexican-American. He was a campaign consultant to Martha Flores-Gibson in 2012 and was both the Vice Chairman of the College Republicans at Concordia University and the President of Nuestra Voz. He lives and writes in Buena Park, California.