Ready for another pandemic? New York City’s health commissioner announced last week that the influx of migrants from the southern border – more than 50,000 to New York City alone in the past year – is delivering contagious diseases, including tuberculosis and polio, to our neighborhoods.
The same disease threats are also endangering other migrant destinations, including California, Texas and Florida.
In a letter to physicians and health care administrators citywide, Commissioner Ashwan Vasan explained that “many people who recently arrived in NYC have lived in or traveled through countries with high rates of TB.”
TB, short for tuberculosis, is a bacterial infection. It is treatable with antibiotics, but it generally takes six to nine months of medication to recover. Not a walk in the park.
TB spreads through the air, like flu or a cold. Stand next to someone with TB for a long subway ride or sit next to them every day at school and you can catch it.
New York City’s TB rate, at 6.1 cases per 100,000, is more than double the national rate. Close to 9 out of 10 (88%) of these TB cases are people born outside the United States. Every neighborhood in the city has had at least one case.
Vasan’s letter called on New York to pull out all the stops providing health care, food and legal services to migrants. Not a word about protecting the people who already live here.
Open borders import disease. Immigrants who lawfully apply for a visa must undergo health screenings and show they are vaccinated, and refugees are screened for TB before entering the U.S. Not so for those wading across the Rio Grande.
Nationwide, 6,009 of the 8,300 people with TB in 2022 were foreign-born, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Florida was slammed with a 21% increase in TB since 2020.
Texas border counties have a TB rate triple the national average.
At least TB is treatable. Polio, on the other hand, can paralyze you for life.
Time will tell how big a threat the return of polio is. In the 1940s and early 1950s, thousands of Americans were permanently paralyzed by it, but vaccines ended that nightmare.
New York’s last confirmed case was in 1990. That is until last summer, when an unvaccinated Rockland County man became paralyzed by polio. His disease likely originated in another country.
Vasan warns that only 50% of the migrants streaming into the Big Apple are vaccinated. But an even bigger issue is the type of vaccine used in many poorer countries, which can actually spread polio.
The U.S. uses only injectable polio vaccines made with dead virus that cannot spread the disease. But many other countries use a less safe oral vaccine that contains live virus and is sometimes shed in the vaccinated person’s feces. It can then spread in sewage or on unclean hands, causing vaccine-derived cases of polio. That’s a problem in 25 countries.
The polio found in New York sewage matches the strains of polio caused by oral vaccines. And health authorities have matched the Rockland County man’s polio to these strains.
The Rockland County man had not traveled outside the U.S., but he attended a gathering where he picked up the disease several days before his symptoms appeared.
He may have shook hands or touched contaminated water and was exposed to the virus.
Most unsettling, Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert, Rockland County health commissioner, cautions that “when we see one case of paralytic polio, that means there are probably hundreds and hundreds of cases that are out there in the community but not diagnosed, because 75% of the cases are asymptomatic.”
Looking at the presence of polio in wastewater in most parts of the state, Health Commissioner Mary Bassett warns that “the danger of polio is present in New York today.”
Gov. Kathy Hochul temporarily declared a state of emergency. But Democratic politicians won’t talk about why this emergency threat to our health is happening. You can thank the Biden administration’s open border policies.
Tell Democrats in Washington that one pandemic was enough.
Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of New York and chairman of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths. Follow her on Twitter @Betsy_McCaughey.
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