Right-Wing Media Exploit Ebola Outbreak In West Africa To Spread Immigration Fears

››› ››› MICHELLE LEUNG

Right-wing media are exploiting the recent outbreak of Ebola in West Africa to stoke fears that undocumented immigrants could carry the deadly virus across the southern U.S. border, even though the Centers for Disease Control and other health experts have stated that the likelihood of such an event is "almost nonexistent."

Right-Wing Media Hype Fears That Ebola Will Spread Into U.S. Through The Southern Border

Breitbart.com: Individuals From Nations Suffering From Ebola Exploit "Porous" U.S. Border. On August 3, Breitbart.com claimed that it had obtained "a leaked intelligence analysis from the Customs and Border Protection (CBP)" purporting to show that 71 individuals from Ebola-stricken nations had been caught attempting to illegally enter the U.S.:

Among the significant revelations are that individuals from nations currently suffering from the world's largest Ebola outbreak have been caught attempting to sneak across the porous U.S. border into the interior of the United States. At least 71 individuals from the three nations affected by the current Ebola outbreak have either turned themselves in or been caught attempting to illegally enter the U.S. by U.S. authorities between January 2014 and July 2014. [Breitbart.com, 8/3/14]

Infowars.com: "Ebola May Have Already Crossed Border" And "Be Spreading" Across The U.S. On August 4, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' website Infowars.com pointed to Breitbart.com's CBP report to claim it showed that "Ebola may have already crossed [the] border, hyping fears that "by shipping illegals to various regions of the U.S., the Obama administration could also be spreading Ebola or another deadly disease carried by an illegal immigrant right now across America." [Infowars.com, 8/4/14

Drudge Report: "Dozens From Ebola-Struck Countries Caught Sneaking Into USA." On August 3, a Drudge Report headline highlighted Breitbart.com's report by linking immigration to the Ebola crisis: 

[Drudge Report, 8/4/14]

Laura Ingraham: "We Could Have Ebola People Coming Across The Border Right Now," And We Have A "Very Limited Ability" To Prevent The Disease From Spreading. Laura Ingraham, a contributor to both ABC and Fox News, used the Ebola outbreak in West Africa as an excuse to spread fears that Ebola-infected individuals may be illegally crossing into the U.S.:

INGRAHAM: All the people who are upset about the Ebola-infected patients being treated in the United States. I will say this, at least we know who they are and where they're being treated. We currently have a border that is so much like Swiss cheese that anyone could be coming across the border right now, with any type of illness. And, we have a very limited ability to stop them, track them, prevent the disease from spreading. So before you get all upset about Ebola, we could have Ebola people coming across the border right now. [Courtside Entertainment Group, The Laura Ingraham Show, 8/4/14]

Experts: Risk Of Ebola Transmission Through Southern Border "Almost Nonexistent"

PolitiFact: "CDC And Independent Epidemiologists Say There Is Zero Evidence" That Migrants Are Carrying Ebola Through The U.S.-Mexico Border. PolitiFact cited experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, among other experts, to explain that  "given how the disease develops, the likelihood of children from Central America bringing it to the U.S. border is almost nonexistent":

First, we checked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, whose job includes tracking outbreaks of serious infectious diseases. Spokesman Daniel J. DeNoon confirmed that the CDC has received no reports of a human Ebola infection anywhere in the Western Hemisphere, much less the U.S.-Mexico border. "Ebola cases in humans have never been reported outside of Africa," DeNoon said.

William Schaffner, an infectious-disease specialist at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, agreed. "The congressman is misinformed," he said. "There is no Ebola in the Western Hemisphere."

We also checked whether it was plausible for a child or adult entering the United States from Central America via Mexico to be infected with the Ebola virus. CDC scientists call it "extremely unlikely," DeNoon said.

Independent experts agreed. "It's very, very, highly unlikely if you are talking about someone from Central America who has not traveled to Africa," Thomas W. Geisbert, a microbiologist and immunologist specializing in Ebola at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.

"The incubation period is two to 21 days, so theoretically, an African could fly from an infected area, land in a Mexican airport, take a bus toward the border, hire a coyote to take him across and then 'present' with Ebola," said Thomas Fekete, section chief for infectious diseases at the Temple University School of Medicine. "But this presupposes a suicidal person who also has the resources for this kind of travel."

Indeed, the prior, scattered examples of exotic and deadly diseases reaching the United States suggest that "the likelihood of an illegal migrant getting infected and introducing the disease to the U.S. is probably less than that of a 'legal' traveler," said Daniel G. Bausch, head of the virology and emerging infections department at the U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit No.6 in Lima, Peru.

Another problem: If you had such an infection, the chances are good that you would die on the journey to the United States, said Arthur Caplan, director of the division of medical ethics at New York University's Langone Medical Center. "You would be too sick to make it to the border by foot," he said. [PolitiFact.com, 7/7/14]

Centers For Disease Control: U.S. Not At Risk From Ebola

CDC Director: We Don't Need To Seal The Borders Because Of Ebola Because "We Know How To Control It." On the August 3 edition of ABC's This Week, Dr. Tom Frieden, the director of  the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), explained that he disagreed with Donald Trump's advocacy to seal the U.S. border and that "the single most important thing we can do to protect Americans is to stop this disease at the source":

FRIEDEN: The plain truth is, we can stop Ebola. We know how to control it. Hospital infection control, and stopping it at the source in Africa. We're not going to hermetically seal the borders of the U.S. We're reliant and interdependent with the world for travel, for trade, for the economy, for our families and communities. But really, the single most important thing we can do to protect Americans is to stop this disease at the source in Africa. [ABC, This Week, 8/3/14]

CDC: "It Is Not A Potential Of Ebola Spreading Widely In The U.S." CDC director Frieden explained that because of advanced medical facilities, the U.S. is not at risk for an Ebola outbreak. From NBC News:

"It is not a potential of Ebola spreading widely in the U.S. That is not in the cards," Frieden told reporters on a conference call.

[...]

As for Ebola coming to the U.S., Frieden is not overly worried.

"We have quarantine stations at all the major ports of entry," he said. People cannot transmit Ebola to others unless they are sick, and Ebola makes you so sick that it's pretty obvious pretty quickly, Frieden said. A traveler will be flagged by the flight crew and if someone gets sick after arrival in the U.S. they will almost certainly seek medical care.

"Ebola poses little risk to the U.S. general population," Frieden said. "Ebola is spread as people get sicker and sicker. They have fever and may develop serious symptoms." Ebola doesn't spread through the air like measles. People who get sick are family members or healthcare workers in prolonged and close contact with victims. [NBC News, 7/31/14]

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