by J.D. Heyes
It’s another one of those things that is happening in our country that we’re not supposed to talk about, because to do so gets us labeled as bigots and racists (by people who are really the bigots and racists). But it is a subject that needs to be roundly discussed in the public forum, because it is something that directly threatens the health and safety of all Americans.
That subject is the spread of a disease – tuberculosis – that was rare and well under control in America. But not anymore. In fact, after 25 years of steady decline, TB infection rates are rising again. And for the new danger, we can thank the Obama administration and its lax border enforcement and generous refugee resettlement initiatives.
As reported by Breitbart News, even some medical professionals are not only warning about the dangers, but are condemning state and federal officials who have either ignored the resurgence of the disease, or have failed to speak out about it.
In recent days, the head of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, Dr. Jane Orient, criticized Vermont health officials for neglecting to warn residents about a latent risk of contracting TB from one of the state’s 6,300 newly-acquired refugees, most of them from the war-torn Middle East where the disease is rampant.
‘We will continue to see refugees with latent TB’
“It is grossly irresponsible for a public health official to be cavalier about the introduction of even one case [of active TB] in her jurisdiction,” Orient said, in response to news that Vermont State Epidemiologist Patsy Kelso recently attempted to downplay the fact that health officials diagnosed at least 17 refugees with the disease.
In fact, many were diagnosed months ago, according to Breitbart News.
But in an interview with Vermont Public Radio, Kelso, who has a Ph.D. in public health, said that figure was “not a concern of mine as the state epidemiologist.”
“We will continue to see refugees with latent TB infection and we will continue to see, in rare cases, active TB illness in refugees – like we do all the time in U.S.-born Vermonters,” she added.
Only, that’s not true because, again, TB infection rates had been declining nationwide for a quarter century, making Kelso’s statement bizarre at best, and dangerously politically correct at worst.
“Because of its easy transmissibility (you can catch it on the bus), TB is one of the most serious health threats. One nurse or one visitor to the labor and delivery suite who turns out to have active TB can require identification and testing and tracking of dozens or hundreds of contacts,” Dr. Orient told Breitbart. “Latent TB is there for life and can activate at any time resistance breaks down (say a course of treatment for asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, or cancer).”
The problem is global – and getting worse
What’s more, Orient – who is managing editor of the Journal of American Surgeons and Physicians – said in her interview that there is no decent vaccine to protect against TB, and that treatment for the disease is prolonged, expensive and difficult. Worse, TB that has been imported is probably even more resistant to multiple drugs or even all drugs.
“TB is one of the most lethal diseases and likely has killed as many people as any other plague in history. It was controlled in the US only with tremendous effort,” Orient said, adding that patients who have contracted latent TB need frequent monitoring, chest x-rays and other care. Also, such patients endanger all who care for them.
The problem is even bigger than this, however. As Dr. Madhukar Pai, writing for the Huffington Post noted, antimicrobial resistance, or AMR, is becoming a massive problem worldwide. And, by 2050, on its current trajectory, AMR is likely to claim 10 million lives a year, and cost the global economy $100 trillion.
While it is not possible to protect yourself from every threat, what you can do is take steps to reduce your vulnerability, by preparing for the worst.
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