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Dr. Manny: Is America on the verge of a major health crisis?

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Detainees sleep in a holding cell at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing facility, in Brownsville, Texas June 18, 2014. CPB provided media tours June 18 of two locations in Brownsville and Nogales, Arizona that have been central to processing the more than 47,000 unaccompanied children who have entered the country illegally since Oct. 1. REUTERS/Eric Gay/Pool (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW POLITICS SOCIETY) - RTR3UI3Q

The recent surge of immigrants at the Texas-Mexico border – many of whom are unaccompanied minors – is the latest catastrophe under the Obama administration’s immigration policy that is seriously putting the health of our nation at risk.

Now, I’m not talking about the risk of immigrants merely coming to this country -- heck I was once one myself!  But the unsuitable conditions of the Border Patrol processing facilities and detention centers where thousands of immigrants are being held, and the lack of sufficient medical screenings mean we could be on the verge of a health crisis, America.  

And while the debate rages on among top elected officials about how to handle the influx, state health officials and volunteers working on the ground in these border towns are beginning to voice their concerns.

Modern public health policies clearly describe conditions which could lead to mass outbreaks of diseases, and what’s going on now is the perfect storm. State health officials touring one of the detention centers in Texas recently reported several issues including a lack of medicine for children, and insufficient medical screenings and testing for vaccinations or tuberculosis. They also noted that the children in the facility ate, slept and used the bathroom in the same crowded areas with no running water or soap for proper hygiene to prevent the spread of disease.   

These conditions are very concerning, because we could very easily see major outbreaks in these centers and border towns of diseases like measles, influenza and tuberculosis (TB). Health care policy of immigration in this country properly describes that there are many communicable diseases that must be tackled head on before anyone makes it onto U.S. soil. This includes conditions like TB, leprosy, syphilis and gonorrhea – just to name a few. That policy also includes the documented administration of certain childhood vaccinations like polio, hepatitis and measles, mumps, rubella (MMR).

What’s going on right now is that there is no good accountability that any of these screenings are being done in a proper manner, or the few that have been done don’t make up for those thousands of immigrants falling through the cracks. If the border health officials are telling the federal government that a health crisis is looming, why is the federal government not listening?

According to many reports I have read, the medical screenings that are going on rely heavily on verbal and visual examinations. Clearly, a Q&A session on whether someone trying to enter the country illegally has all the proper health criteria for doing so is not the most efficient way of doing things – especially when you have crowding and communal living where disease outbreaks are common.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) must supply the federal government with the resources to conduct proper screenings or the federal government has to reimburse the state and local governments giving them the ability get the help they need in tackling this health looming crisis head-on. I think that America knows very well what potential outbreaks of influenza or any atypical virus could create in our country. We monitor illness throughout the world, but in many cases, we keep paying the price because foreign health officials fail to properly disclose or monitor major viral outbreaks among their own communities.

This problem is not just a problem among border towns. As thousands of immigrants are released from detention centers to await their day in court, reports have surfaced that they are boarding busses for destinations as far as New York.

It is not for me to say what our immigration policy in America should be. But as a doctor, I do have the right to say that a major health catastrophe could be looming if we don’t address these immigration health issues at our border towns now.

It’s laughable to me that the Obama administration  is launching a pricey public relations campaign warning Central American kids trying to enter the U.S. illegally that they will not get papers allowing them to stay. One of the ways that you have to get control of this humanitarian exodus from Central America is to hold those foreign governments accountable. It seems to me that those legislators are basically saying to the U.S. “It’s not our problem, it’s yours.”

It saddens me that those foreign leaders don’t care as much as they should about the welfare of these innocent children and of the millions of people in the country willing to accept them. But one thing is for sure: America once again, will have to be the guardian of everyone’s health.

Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's Senior Managing Editor for Health News. Prior to this position, Alvarez was a FNC medical contributor.
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