TB and PC -- and the ACLU
0 comment Monday, July 28, 2014 |
The coverage of the story about Andrew Speaker, the man with drug-resistant TB who may have exposed many airline passengers to the disease, has been interesting, and sometimes full of inconsistencies by the 'experts' interviewed by the cable news channels. MSNBC, for example, devoted a lot of time to the story today, and seemed to take a concerned attitude, while on FOX News I noticed that several of the experts interviewed seemed to downplay any concerns, saying with a dismissive air that TB was 'hard to spread' and that most people should not worry. I see that ABC News Medical Editor quoted in the article linked above also takes the"what, me worry?" approach. Who to believe?
Here is a 2004 article from the Harvard Gazette which tells us that
Drug-resistant TB strains may spread easily
...Current strategies are based on the assumption that multidrug-resistant strains can safely be ignored because the changes that make them drug-resistant also make them less able to reproduce and spread.
Postdoctoral fellow Ted Cohen and Assistant Professor of Epidemiology Megan Murray say that assumption is in error. Studies have already shown that different types of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis exist and that some spread as easily as nondrug-resistant strains.
Using that information, Cohen and Murray developed a mathematical model that shows that even a small number of resistant strains that are fit from an evolutionary standpoint - meaning they can reproduce and spread well - will gradually make up a larger and larger percentage of tuberculosis cases until they present a major public health problem.''
And there is this related piece:
Airborne transmission worse than thought
The article says that researchers concluded that
...a better appreciation of aerosol-acquired infection is needed, especially in environments where ventilation systems in airplanes, apartment buildings, schools, and hospitals circulate and recirculate air that may at times contain infectious airborne aerosol-acquired diseases and viruses. They call for better measures to be taken toward sanitizing the air, through tools such as upper-room ultraviolet irradiation and through research that will help control the spread of airborne infection.''And it's well-known that
TB seen in many aliens, study says
...Cases of tuberculosis, which plateaued in the U.S. after increasing 20 percent in the past two decades, mostly affects the lungs and is spread through airborne bacteria, often through a cough or sneeze. It is considered a global problem, carried in latent form by 2 billion people, or a third of the world's population, said JAMA editor Dr. Catherine De Angelis.
According to this article from 2005, the three states with the greatest number of TB cases are California, Texas, and New York. All of these states, obviously, have some of the largest numbers of immigrants also.
Patients with drug-resistant tuberculosis are four times more likely to die than patients with standard tuberculosis. Forty-nine of the California patients, or 14%, died from their drug-resistant infections, according to the study, published in the Tuesday issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.''
The Center for Disease Control has a factsheet on Extensively Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (XDR TB) here:
Notice among the FAQs this question, and the answer:
Are immigrants putting the U.S. at increased risk for TB?
Persons applying to enter the U.S. with immigrant or refugee visas must complete a questionnaire about any symptoms of TB they may have and obtain a chest radiograph. If positive, the person submits sputum specimens for examination for TB bacteria. Persons identified as having infectious TB are not granted entry to the United States, until they have been treated.''
I find the answer coy and disingenuous. It does not directly answer the question posed, first of all. And the answer that is given is framed so as to offer reassurance that our government is on top of the problem, proactively screening would-be immigrants and eliminating those who have the disease, or at least insisting that they obtain treatment before they are admitted. But how much proof is required of visa applicants? Do those infected need repeat tests to prove they are cured? If they have a resistant type, and they fail to complete the full treatment, would they still be admitted? Is our inefficient immigration bureaucracy adequate to the task of ensuring that requirements are met?
And tellingly the CDC's answer cagily skirts the question of illegal immigration; we know we have about 1.3 million legal immigrants per year, or at least, so we are told, but how many illegals enter our country every year? Possibly twice that many, by some estimates, but the fact is, nobody knows for sure how many. And we know that NONE of them are screened for contagious diseases. But the CDC gives us a sly, lawyerly answer to the question about immigrants putting us at increased risk. The honest answer would have been a big, unqualified YES. But such an answer would not be politically correct, would it? So it is not just the disease called TB that is endangering us, but the mental and moral disease referred to as PC.
If only we could find a cure for that, we'd be halfway home.
Brenda Walker has an excellent piece dealing with the question of how PC affects our public health policy:
The X-Ray Files: How Political Correctness Is Destroying Effective Public Health Policy
One might think that political correctness would have no place in the more serious arenas of policy, such as public health, but that is not the case. An editorial in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune struck a blow for the say-no-evil variety of public debate, wherein the writer bemoaned the increasing number of Minnesota tuberculosis cases, of which four in five are immigrants. (While TB in the U.S. is on the decline overall, it is growing in states like Minnesota that have large immigrant populations.) Instead of a reasonable and responsible statement about improved screening to keep out persons with dangerous infectious diseases, the Star-Tribune went global, instead recommending only a worldwide effort against TB and saying that "cracking down on immigration is no answer." Evidently the writer has forgotten the history of Ellis Island, where all immigrants were given physical examinations precisely to prevent the entrance of disease-infected persons, with one to three percent of newcomers sent back to their home countries every year because of health concerns. Rejection of foreigners carrying infectious disease is part of our immigration tradition.
At the same time memories of tuberculosis wards were fading, lawyers enlarged the concept of bioethics and individual patient's rights.
[...]Still, the pendulum has been swinging away from public health requirements at the same time that the globalized economy has exploded with increased trade and immigration -- both of which mean foreign diseases, creatures and organisms are just a plane ride away.
In the last decades, some states diluted their communicable disease-reporting laws and made it more difficult to track infectious diseases. Worse, some public health officials have come to believe that they do not have the authority to restrict individual behavior in situations of danger to the community and have fallen back into a position of merely providing care.
[Note: In yesterday's presser at the CDC, the CDC's Director, Julie Gerberding, spoke about the policy of balancing the 'personal liberty' of people with communicable diseases against the need for public safety. I thought that concept a very PC one; it's not at all the approach that our commonsense ancestors were willing to risk. - VA]
At the same time, U.S. law prohibits the return of refugees when they have a credible fear of political persecution, even when they also have infectious diseases. In this case, the government has decided that refugee rights are more important than public health. This has serious implications, given a 1996 WHO report estimated that "as many as half the world's refugees may be infected with TB."
In addition, cultural beliefs about illness and immigrant lifestyles may make effective treatment difficult without Directly Observed Therapy (DOT). Somalis believe that TB is a curse and may be reluctant to admit their illness or seek treatment. Some illegals forego treatment because they believe they will be turned over to the INS for deportation. Migrant workers are harder to treat precisely because they are migrants. The World Health Organization warns that poorly managed tuberculosis programs threaten to make TB incurable.
A Washington Post story (3/3/00) contained the following remark from the chief of Maryland's Tuberculosis Control, Nancy Baruch: "My greatest fear is that there will be this terrific xenophobic response to anyone who is a quote-unquote refugee or immigrant. All that does is drive someone away from the help they need." One would expect the "greatest fear" of a person in a top public health position to be a sudden outbreak of disease or perhaps an act of bio-terrorism causing the deaths of thousands. But no, the worst horror is bad thoughts about immigrants.
[Note: So 'xenophobia' is considered to be much more of a threat than incurable, possibly fatal diseases. How did we as a society come to this? Better dead than xenophobic, apparently.]
An effective public health system for the United States should be the paramount concern, but we hear nothing from officials about the jeopardy posed by the current immigration chaos. The politically correct, say-no-evil philosophy of politicians and public health professionals is a dangerous denial. They must do better when the issue is life and death.''
So, the people charged with protecting the public's health and safety are incurably PC, and thus unable to carry out their duties adequately. It's not bad enough that we have to be concerned about XDR TB, Extensively Drug Resistant TB, we are up against "XRR PC": Extensively Reality-Resistant Political Correctness.
And as if on cue, here comes the ACLU, who can be counted on to take the wrong side of most issues, bringing a suit
against Maricopa County, Arizona: they say that Maricopa County violated the rights of a TB patient by quarantining him and ''treating him like a criminal.'' If they win the lawsuit, imagine the precedent set there: quarantining anyone would not be possible.
The man around whom the lawsuit centers also has drug-resistant TB and has refused to follow the treatment.
Is the public health and wellbeing to be endangered so that the irresponsible and the foolish can have their 'personal liberty' or their 'right' to spread disease?
But one small hopeful sign: I have heard some very irate comments about the irresponsibility of Andrew Speaker in exposing the public to his illness. I do believe this may cause some people to begin pondering the health risks that are increasing in our 'global village' open-borders world, and I think some may finally begin to realize that this kind of thing is being unleashed among us by our insane 'invite the world' policies, and ultimately our derelict government officials and politicians. This one airline passenger is simply one of many carrying the disease; the rest of the carriers are anonymous and scattered throughout our country.

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