Friday, March 14, 2008

Sac Bee still mystified by cause of TB outbreaks

I'm noticing a pattern. Every March for the last three years, our local fishwrap, the Sacramento Bee, has run an article about the growing presence of tuberculosis in our area. In March 2006 and March 2007, I dutifully commented on the Bee's comical confusion about why these TB outbreaks happen, while at the same time, employing tortured attempts to downplay the obvious reason. In today's Metro section, the Bee sticks with the tried and true and has included yet another report on the virulence of TB in the Sacramento area. They give away the ending right in the headline:

TB cases are up in four area counties: Placer traces most of the infections in 2007 to people born overseas. (Chanman's emphasis)

You might think that the Bee is putting itself out there by alluding to this fact in the headline, but then all you have to do is read the first paragraph. Again, all emphasis is mine:
While tuberculosis continues its steady decline in California, it spiked last year in four Sacramento-area counties for reasons that aren't fully understood.
Oh, I think I understand just fine; all I have to do is skip to the middle of the article:
In 2007, just three of the people being treated for TB in Placer County were born in the United States, and they all caught it from close contact with a person born overseas, [Placer County community health director] Mark Starr said. The other 10 sufferers came from Myanmar, Mexico, Nepal, the Philippines, South Africa and South Korea. Statewide, about 76 percent of tuberculosis cases occurred in people born outside the United States, according to statistics posted online by the state Department of Public Health.
The obvious question is how many of these people "born overseas", as the Bee so delicately puts it, are illegal? Another good question is, if some of these people who were "born overseas" had TB when they legally entered the United States, why weren't they stopped from... entering the United States? See, once upon a time, there was this place in New York Harbor called Ellis Island. Legal immigrants were screened there for health problems, and if they had anything, like, oh I don't know, tuberculosis maybe, then those infected immigrants were sent back from whence they came. On the west coast, we had Angel Island in San Francisco Bay performing the same function. Notice both immigration stations were located on islands? That was so a) an immigrant of any condition couldn't just bypass the gauntlet and be-bop into our midst, and b) so that immigrants with deadly and/or infectious diseases would be naturally quarantined from the mainland.

Somewhere along the way, it was apparently decided that testing newly arrived immigrants for these diseases was detrimental to self-esteem or something, so that little detail was nixed. Of course with illegal immigrants, there is no paper trail at all, and so into our borders they jaunt, coughing and wheezing all the while.

Fear not though, for that aforementioned health director, Mark Starr, has something to say about comments like mine:
What's clear, however, is that with the developing world harboring so many potential cases of TB, the disease can't be successfully fought within any one country's borders... In today's world, there's no sense in pointing fingers. we should be solving problems.
Who put this guy in charge? My dear Mr. Starr, pointing fingers is one of the first and most crucial steps to solving the problem. How do you solve the problem without pointing out where everything is going wrong? Two things must be done: stop illegal immigration through direct and indirect enforcement, and bring back medical screening of legal immigrants like we once had.

Wow! That was easy. As for you Sacramento Bee, we will speak about this again next March!

Good Day to You, Sir

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