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In our opinion: Flu doesn't respect borders

Published: Monday, July 6 2015 1:46 a.m. MDT

Araceli Martinez, left, hands out swine flu prevention packets to migrant workers Juan Ortega and Alma Guzman in Orosi, Calif. (Associated Press) Araceli Martinez, left, hands out swine flu prevention packets to migrant workers Juan Ortega and Alma Guzman in Orosi, Calif. (Associated Press)

All you have to do is look at the map of confirmed cases of swine influenza in the United States. With the exceptions of California and Texas, the most populated states west of the Mississippi River, other states along the U.S.-Mexican border have had negligible numbers of confirmed cases. In fact, the largest outbreak has been in New York state, where authorities believe students who recently vacationed in Mexico for spring break brought the virus home with them.

But that doesn't stop some people. Don't let facts get in the way of anti-immigration rhetoric that has erupted since the swine-flu outbreak began. Conservative radio talk-show hosts and garden-variety anti-illegal immigration activists alike are branding undocumented workers as carriers of the H1N1 virus. Some have gone so far as to recommend that undocumented restaurant workers in the United States be tested for the virus.

Talk-radio host Michael Savage went so far as to call the virus a "possible terrorist attack on America." He urged listeners to avoid undocumented immigrants.

Meanwhile, Fox News' Glenn Beck lamented the nation's lack of border security.

At a small demonstration outside the Salt Lake Chamber on Friday, one demonstrator donned a hazmat suit and medical mask, apparently to protest the spread of swine flu across the border.

Good grief. As if the influenza microbes respect physical borders. In fact, as of press time Sunday, swine flu had been detected in 19 countries, again debunking border theories.

It's not surprising that pundits and activists have seized upon this opportunity to attempt to further their agenda. But some medical professionals fear that the assigning of blame to Mexican immigrants may make them more reluctant to seek medical care.

Influenza pandemics are naturally occurring events that may happen every 30 to 40 years. On a highly mobile planet, there's a greater risk than ever of contracting infectious diseases. To use this particular outbreak as an excuse for immigrant bashing is unconscionable.

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company