The Falsehoods Come Home to Roost: Dirty Foreign Germs In America

Parasitic infections and other diseases usually associated with the developing world are cropping up with alarming frequency among U.S. poor, especially in states along the U.S.-Mexico border, the rural South and in Appalachia, according to researchers.

Government and private researchers are just beginning to assess the toll of the infections, which are a significant cause of heart disease, seizures and congenital birth defects among black and Hispanic populations.


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0 thoughts on “The Falsehoods Come Home to Roost: Dirty Foreign Germs In America

  1. In 1963 I made a trip to Peru, my first visit to South America. A colleague going along called the Chair of Tropical Medicine at the Tulane Medical School to ask what precautions we should take. The Chair listed various diseases he hoped we would get because the medical school did not have good specimens. My friend was not impressed.

  2. I’m going to go out on a limb here and speculate that this will become a “and that is why we need to get rid of the dirty poor brown people before they infect us/poison our wells” story rather than a “Y’know, public health investment might be a good idea” story…

  3. I hope the millionss of mosquito bites I have suffered in south Texas have exposed me enough to dengue fever to provide some degree of immunity. To the millions I will suffer in the future. 😉

  4. @phisrow: yeah, I got that impression too: blame the stupid filthy non-white poor folk. Part of the problem is that they listen to white trailer trash like Jenny McCarthy, but attacking the poor folk is like putting makeup on someone suffering from skin cancer rather than cutting out the tumors – McCarthy continues to grow with little resistance.

  5. Greg, what’s your point? The headline to your post leads me to think you don’t believe the epidemiologic evidence that foreign infections pose a threat to US public health.

    I can only speak as an expert (neurologist) on neurocysticercosis. Every case I’ve seen has been directly trackable to Latin America, either in an immigrant or from food prepared by immigrants.

    This is from the 2004 CDC report on cysticercosis: “We examined data from California death certificates for the 12-year period 1989â??2000. A total of 124 cysticercosis deaths were identified, representing a crude 12-year death rate of 3.9 per million population (95% confidence interval [CI] 3.2 to 4.6). Eighty-two (66%) of the case-patients were male; 42 (34%) were female. The median age at death was 34.5 years (range 7â??81 years). Most patients (107, 86.3%) were foreign-born, and 90 (72.6%) had emigrated from Mexico. Seventeen (13.7%) deaths occurred in U.S.-born residents.”

    The disease is transmitted among humans by contamination of food and water with infected human fecal material. This is associated with poverty, poor sanitation, and poor public health systems. Initial entry of the disease into humans from infected pigs is related to inadequate government inspection of meat, which is a deficiency in Latin American countries.

    So, yes, it’s true that a dirty third-world germ is threatening the US.

    I thought only conservative republicans downplayed science findings that contradict their preferred views?

  6. David, this was posted in the context of a series on common falsehoods in the understanding of evolution, including the idea that there is decreased selection pressure in the Western industrialized world. Those are what have come home to roost; there is no disputing the epidemiological evidence going on here.

  7. David: My point is (and certainly had not made it in the post, as SZ points out, this is part of a larger discussion) the following:

    The Western health care system, as good as it has been, could be, or might have been, is simply not the end of “epidemiological evolution” to coin a phrase. Many people believe (and this is the falsehood part) that “evolution has stopped for humans” because medicine fixes those nasty disease-related selective forces. But, westerners are not alone on this planet, and as long as we maintain the system we have now, we will also maintain a reservoir of nasty diseases that modern medicine will not automatically fix.

    Although it was not my point, I also happen to agree with the comments above that every time there is news of diseases coming over our border someone takes this information and runs with it as an attack on immigrant or as a racist diatribe. But that was not my main point.

  8. Greg, I recognize that your intent was to discuss the falsehood regarding “evolution has stopped.” I agree with you on that issue.

    But the headline you gave to the post links the concept of falsehood to the phrase “dirty foreign germs.” And the phrase sounds like you’re belittling the people who worry about this. Usually your writing is a clear and accurate indication of your intent, and I assumed that was true in this case as well.

    Your reply in #9 agrees that “every time there is news of diseases coming over our border someone takes this information and runs with it…” relegates this to an ad hominem. Yes, there are racist anti-immigrants who use this in their rants. And I despise those people as much as you do. But the fact is that immigration from countries with endemic diseases DOES pose a threat to public health. I’ve seen people infected with worms in their brains; it’s an ugly disease.

    As for Stephanie, I don’t apologize to snarks.

  9. David, I didn’t ask you to apologize to me. In fact, I didn’t ask you to apologize.

    As for ad hominem, you’ve got your order backward. Saying, “You’re a racist; therefore, everything you say about immigrants is wrong,” is ad hominem. Saying, “You’re suggesting we need to get rid of all brown immigrants because a very tiny percentage carry diseases we don’t already see in the U.S.; therefore, you’re a racist,” is not ad hominem. It’s an observation, as is, “You’re a racist; therefore, anything you say on the topic of immigration should be subjected to thorough critical review before acceptance as fact.”

    Also, Greg’s titles are generally the most opaque parts of his posts.

  10. Stephanie, #8 “Oh, and you’re welcome to apologize…”
    Stephanie, #12 “I didn’t ask you to apologize to me. In fact, I didn’t ask you to apologize.”

    as for the ad hominem comment, my point was that by tying the news to the kind of people who use it for racist purposes, it downgrades the importance of the news. perhaps I was unclear.

  11. You’re welcome to apologize for jumping the gun, because it then gets you out of this weird little rut of insisting Greg has done something wrong. Nice and clean and easy. Observing that someone will make political hay out of a fact has no bearing on whether it’s a fact.

  12. Is this not an excellent example of a new adaptive challenge which we will deal with culturally? Will there be a noticable genetic-based adaptational change?

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