This week as President Obama asks Congress to provide $2 billion to help control an influx of Central American children crossing the South Texas border, many are voicing a prominent concern that children entering from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras will introduce infectious diseases across the southern United States. Politicians and even some physicians have even labeled these children a threat to homeland security because of their potential to create a public health crisis.
However, the reality of Texas (as well as adjacent areas of the US Gulf Coast) is that tropical infectious diseases are already here and many of them have been here for decades or centuries. Rather than immigration it is the convergence of extreme poverty and warm climate that make this region vulnerable to a group of illnesses known as the neglected tropical diseases or ‘NTDs’. Texas and the Gulf Coast states rank among the poorest in our nation, and the pervasive low-quality housing and environmental degradation, together with long, hot, and humid summers create the perfect conditions for NTDs to flourish. Read the rest here