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Leprosy, Polio, Malaria, TB, Measles… And Massive Unscreened Illegal Immigration

Leprosy, Polio, Malaria, TB, Measles… And Massive Unscreened Illegal Immigration

Authored by James Varney via RealClear Wire,




Leprosy, Polio, Malaria, TB, Measles... And Massive Unscreened Illegal Immigration

Authored by James Varney via RealClear Wire,

Successful public health campaigns and medical advances have enabled the United States to conquer a range of disfiguring and damaging diseases. Polio, which paralyzed thousands of Americans annually, was wiped out by widespread vaccinations. In 1999 the nation’s last hospital for lepers closed its doors in Louisiana. A global campaign eradicated smallpox, while lethal tuberculosis, the “consumption” that stalked characters in decades of literature, seemed beaten by antibiotics. Measles outbreaks still occur from time to time, but they are small, local, and easily contained.

Recently, however, some of these forgotten but still formidable infectious diseases have begun to reappear in the U.S. For two years running, polio has been detected in some New York water samples, and this fall, leprosy re-emerged in Florida, where cases of malaria have also been recorded.

Health officials say they are not sure why these and other infectious diseases are resurfacing. One distinct possibility, which officials are loath to discuss, is that the millions of migrants who have crossed into the country in recent years could be bringing the scourges with them, since many are from countries where such rare diseases persist and vaccination programs are not robust.

The recent polio and leprosy cases are almost certainly imports to the U.S.,” said Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a physician and scientist at Stanford University, one of the most outspoken critics of official COVID-19 narratives in the last pandemic that later proved flawed.

And the Biden administration, an aggressive promoter of often mandatory vaccination last time, now is offering little public comment on the connection between disease and the porous borders with which its immigration policy has become widely identified.

Neither the Centers for Disease Control nor the Department of Homeland Security would discuss the issue with RealClearInvestigations. Legal immigrants are required to receive vaccinations for a host of diseases, but the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged it does not have vaccination records for the millions who have entered the U.S. since the Biden administration relaxed border controls upon taking office in January 2021.

“It’s not like there is some Typhoid Mary out there, but this is something people are seeing and thinking about, even if they don’t want to discuss it publicly,” said Art Arthur of the Center for Immigration Studies, which opposes the Biden administration’s border policies.

The reticence of federal agencies has not stopped some local officials, however, from raising public health alarms over massive immigration. New York City Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan warned in April that at least half of the migrants who have poured into the city had not been vaccinated against polio. The potentially paralyzing and life-threatening virus remains endemic in two countries in the world, Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to the World Health Organization. Since President Biden ordered what proved to be a chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021, an estimated 90,000 Afghans have come to the U.S. under the terms of Operation Allies Welcome.

It is not clear if those migrants met the polio vaccination requirement. DHS did not respond to a question about whether medical histories were reviewed in the fast-tracked entry of Afghans who got out of their country before the Taliban reimposed its control.

Vasan’s warning pointed directly to the southern border, which has seen record-shattering arrivals on the Biden administration’s watch.

More than 50,000 people have come to New York City in the past year shortly after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border,” he wrote in an 11-page letter. “I am writing now to underscore how critical it is that health care providers take a wide range of considerations into account when working with people who are seeking asylum.”

Citing outbreaks of chickenpox in shelters for illegal immigrants, Vasan also noted the arrival of newcomers who either began their journey in a country where tuberculosis is present or passed through such countries en route to the U.S.

The New York City Health Department did not respond to questions from RealClearInvestigations or to a request to speak with Dr. Vasan, but the numbers have only grown since he sent his letter. Since spring 2022, more than 100,000 migrants had arrived in the city, and more than 67,200 were living in taxpayer-funded housing at the end of November, according to the New York Times.

Last year, the first recorded polio case in the U.S. since 2013 was diagnosed in New York State, with the victim described only as an “unvaccinated man.” Also in 2022, poliovirus was found in the water supply of four New York counties, including Long Island, and New York City. Another positive test result was recorded in Rockland County this year, according to the state.

In the U.S., polio vaccinations remain part of “the routine childhood immunization process” under which the CDC recommends four doses. Adults who grew up in the U.S. are vaccinated, the agency said.

The last occurrence prior to the New York diagnosis had been in 1979. Since November 2022, the CDC has begun wastewater testing for the poliovirus, so long extinct in the U.S., in selected areas, but the agency did not respond to questions about those investigations. It does provide information on COVID and monkeypox, the latter a disease that primarily afflicts the gay population.

A thorough investigation, exploring all avenues of transmission and trying to source a virus to its root, is common among virus hunters, and the idea that millions of people coming to the U.S. could inadvertently carry with them some infectious disease is but one possibility. For example, thus far researchers have been unable to pinpoint where the infamous Ebola virus originates in equatorial Africa.

'Historically Atypical Countries'

The situation in the United States is further complicated by the fact that DHS officials don’t know where all of the more than 7.5 million migrants who’ve arrived since Biden took office are living. Those whom Border Patrol agents have encountered and processed have immigration court dates, but those dates are years in advance. Many people with uncertain immigration status lack health insurance and stay off the grid as much as possible, meaning even if the U.S. launched some kind of vaccination program it would not know where to concentrate its efforts.

In addition, the historic flood of illegal immigration during the Biden administration has also featured a much more global population. DHS uses the term “historically atypical countries” to describe the panoply of countries outside of Mexico and Central America from which illegal immigration has soared. Between 2011 and 2022, the number of annual encounters involving immigrants from historically atypical countries soared from fewer than 8,000 to almost 1 million. The first six months of 2023 saw more than half of official encounters – these numbers do not include what Border Patrol calls “gotaways” for whom little information is available – from historically atypical countries. But infectious diseases largely forgotten in the U.S. remain public health issues in both hemispheres, and many of those nations have much less robust vaccination programs than most modern Western nations.

In 1988, when the World Health Organization launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, wild poliovirus was evident in 125 countries, but the zone where it remains endemic has shrunk to Afghanistan and Pakistan, with most recent cases occurring along the countries’ nearly 1,600-mile border, according to the CDC. Vaccination campaigns have proved problematic under the militant Islamic fundamentalist Taliban, according to the CDC. Oral vaccines in “parts of the south and northeast regions” are “allowed only at health facilities, mosques, and polio vaccination sites.”

In March, Al Jazeera reported that the Taliban would allow a polio vaccination program for children, but precise figures on the country’s overall vaccination rate remain unclear. The World Health Organization estimates that 76% of Afghanistan’s children have received a polio vaccine.

But some countries have even lower vaccination rates. On Nov. 30, for instance, some 700 people, including many from Senegal and Nigeria, walked into the U.S. at the Texas border. Only 63% of Senegal’s children have been vaccinated for polio, and various fevers, hepatitis, and malaria are endemic there. Measles, which the U.S. declared eliminated here in 2000, are an issue, too. The WHO estimates 22 million children missed their first measles vaccine last year and more than half of them live in just 10 countries, all of which fall in the “historically atypical” immigration list.

Measles cases have risen in the U.S., from 13 individual cases in 2020 to 121 in 2022, according to the CDC. Recent outbreaks in Ohio and Illinois have all occurred among unvaccinated children, according to state health officials. The age and nationality of victims is not made public, but the measles vaccination rate is below 70% in many countries that have sent immigrants to the U.S. recently.

While few are publicly pushing the panic button, some public health officials worry that a creeping mistrust of vaccines in the wake of the pandemic may make more Americans vulnerable to dangerous and even deadly scourges. Syphilis, for example, has been on the rise for many years but rose sharply during the pandemic.

COVID-19 has drawn the lion’s share of attention from the public health bureaucracy since 2020, leading to shortfalls in other areas, some experts said.

“All of these diseases are more prevalent in part because of lockdown policies which diverted public health resources and attention worldwide away from its traditional priorities of controlling the spread of these deadly infectious conditions,” Dr. Bhattacharya said, referring to measles and other maladies.

And just as there is no cure for polio, there is no vaccine for some infectious diseases. Malaria, for example, the mosquito-borne fever that killed more workers than yellow fever did when the Panama Canal was built, remains endemic in tropical zones, and its path to rare outbreaks in the U.S. usually follows either a trip made abroad or someone moving here, according to health officials in Florida.

Department spokesman Jae Williams told RCI the exact sources of many infectious disease outbreaks in the Sunshine State remain unknown, but the huge increase in illegal immigrants could be a clue.

It’s always a possibility, and our most recent malaria cases appeared to be a strain from Central America,” he said. In other words, the malaria could have been brought by a newcomer or picked up by someone who traveled there and returned.

Central Florida this summer saw leprosy return, although the exact source remains a mystery, Williams said. Information about the age, sex, and nationality of victims is not public, and most of those who contracted the infectious, skin-disfiguring disease were described only as “landscapers.” Various accounts have speculated armadillos are to blame, but armadillos are not newcomers to the region. The theory holds that somehow the leprosy bacteria, which generally requires prolonged contact and against which most humans have developed immunity over millennia, is in the dirt armadillos wallow in, and the cases that broke out among landscapers then would be linked to the animals they encounter.

But leprosy is not endemic in Florida. It is most common in parts of southeast Asia, equatorial Africa, and Brazil.

The influx of people, sure it’s a problem and it’s always a possibility,” Williams said. “But we don’t really know.”

Nevertheless, the questions are being asked with more frequency. On Dec. 19, Ashley St. Clair, a conservative commentator, set off a firestorm on X, formerly Twitter, that her Delta flight from Phoenix to New York was filled with people who had recently been processed, released, and brought to the airport by Border Patrol.

“All the pilots, airline staff, and passengers want to know is: what medical screenings are being done?” she wrote.

Delta did not respond to questions from RCI about what knowledge it had been provided about its passengers.

Tyler Durden Thu, 12/28/2023 - 18:25

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Mathematicians use AI to identify emerging COVID-19 variants

Scientists at The Universities of Manchester and Oxford have developed an AI framework that can identify and track new and concerning COVID-19 variants…



Scientists at The Universities of Manchester and Oxford have developed an AI framework that can identify and track new and concerning COVID-19 variants and could help with other infections in the future.

Credit: source:

Scientists at The Universities of Manchester and Oxford have developed an AI framework that can identify and track new and concerning COVID-19 variants and could help with other infections in the future.

The framework combines dimension reduction techniques and a new explainable clustering algorithm called CLASSIX, developed by mathematicians at The University of Manchester. This enables the quick identification of groups of viral genomes that might present a risk in the future from huge volumes of data.

The study, presented this week in the journal PNAS, could support traditional methods of tracking viral evolution, such as phylogenetic analysis, which currently require extensive manual curation.

Roberto Cahuantzi, a researcher at The University of Manchester and first and corresponding author of the paper, said: “Since the emergence of COVID-19, we have seen multiple waves of new variants, heightened transmissibility, evasion of immune responses, and increased severity of illness.

“Scientists are now intensifying efforts to pinpoint these worrying new variants, such as alpha, delta and omicron, at the earliest stages of their emergence. If we can find a way to do this quickly and efficiently, it will enable us to be more proactive in our response, such as tailored vaccine development and may even enable us to eliminate the variants before they become established.”

Like many other RNA viruses, COVID-19 has a high mutation rate and short time between generations meaning it evolves extremely rapidly. This means identifying new strains that are likely to be problematic in the future requires considerable effort.

Currently, there are almost 16 million sequences available on the GISAID database (the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data), which provides access to genomic data of influenza viruses.

Mapping the evolution and history of all COVID-19 genomes from this data is currently done using extremely large amounts of computer and human time.

The described method allows automation of such tasks. The researchers processed 5.7 million high-coverage sequences in only one to two days on a standard modern laptop; this would not be possible for existing methods, putting identification of concerning pathogen strains in the hands of more researchers due to reduced resource needs.

Thomas House, Professor of Mathematical Sciences at The University of Manchester, said: “The unprecedented amount of genetic data generated during the pandemic demands improvements to our methods to analyse it thoroughly. The data is continuing to grow rapidly but without showing a benefit to curating this data, there is a risk that it will be removed or deleted.

“We know that human expert time is limited, so our approach should not replace the work of humans all together but work alongside them to enable the job to be done much quicker and free our experts for other vital developments.”

The proposed method works by breaking down genetic sequences of the COVID-19 virus into smaller “words” (called 3-mers) represented as numbers by counting them. Then, it groups similar sequences together based on their word patterns using machine learning techniques.

Stefan Güttel, Professor of Applied Mathematics at the University of Manchester, said: “The clustering algorithm CLASSIX we developed is much less computationally demanding than traditional methods and is fully explainable, meaning that it provides textual and visual explanations of the computed clusters.”

Roberto Cahuantzi added: “Our analysis serves as a proof of concept, demonstrating the potential use of machine learning methods as an alert tool for the early discovery of emerging major variants without relying on the need to generate phylogenies.

“Whilst phylogenetics remains the ‘gold standard’ for understanding the viral ancestry, these machine learning methods can accommodate several orders of magnitude more sequences than the current phylogenetic methods and at a low computational cost.”

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There will soon be one million seats on this popular Amtrak route

“More people are taking the train than ever before,” says Amtrak’s Executive Vice President.



While the size of the United States makes it hard for it to compete with the inter-city train access available in places like Japan and many European countries, Amtrak trains are a very popular transportation option in certain pockets of the country — so much so that the country’s national railway company is expanding its Northeast Corridor by more than one million seats.

Related: This is what it's like to take a 19-hour train from New York to Chicago

Running from Boston all the way south to Washington, D.C., the route is one of the most popular as it passes through the most densely populated part of the country and serves as a commuter train for those who need to go between East Coast cities such as New York and Philadelphia for business.

Veronika Bondarenko captured this photo of New York’s Moynihan Train Hall. 

Veronika Bondarenko

Amtrak launches new routes, promises travelers ‘additional travel options’

Earlier this month, Amtrak announced that it was adding four additional Northeastern routes to its schedule — two more routes between New York’s Penn Station and Union Station in Washington, D.C. on the weekend, a new early-morning weekday route between New York and Philadelphia’s William H. Gray III 30th Street Station and a weekend route between Philadelphia and Boston’s South Station.

More Travel:

According to Amtrak, these additions will increase Northeast Corridor’s service by 20% on the weekdays and 10% on the weekends for a total of one million additional seats when counted by how many will ride the corridor over the year.

“More people are taking the train than ever before and we’re proud to offer our customers additional travel options when they ride with us on the Northeast Regional,” Amtrak Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer Eliot Hamlisch said in a statement on the new routes. “The Northeast Regional gets you where you want to go comfortably, conveniently and sustainably as you breeze past traffic on I-95 for a more enjoyable travel experience.”

Here are some of the other Amtrak changes you can expect to see

Amtrak also said that, in the 2023 financial year, the Northeast Corridor had nearly 9.2 million riders — 8% more than it had pre-pandemic and a 29% increase from 2022. The higher demand, particularly during both off-peak hours and the time when many business travelers use to get to work, is pushing Amtrak to invest into this corridor in particular.

To reach more customers, Amtrak has also made several changes to both its routes and pricing system. In the fall of 2023, it introduced a type of new “Night Owl Fare” — if traveling during very late or very early hours, one can go between cities like New York and Philadelphia or Philadelphia and Washington. D.C. for $5 to $15.

As travel on the same routes during peak hours can reach as much as $300, this was a deliberate move to reach those who have the flexibility of time and might have otherwise preferred more affordable methods of transportation such as the bus. After seeing strong uptake, Amtrak added this type of fare to more Boston routes.

The largest distances, such as the ones between Boston and New York or New York and Washington, are available at the lowest rate for $20.

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The next pandemic? It’s already here for Earth’s wildlife

Bird flu is decimating species already threatened by climate change and habitat loss.

I am a conservation biologist who studies emerging infectious diseases. When people ask me what I think the next pandemic will be I often say that we are in the midst of one – it’s just afflicting a great many species more than ours.

I am referring to the highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza H5N1 (HPAI H5N1), otherwise known as bird flu, which has killed millions of birds and unknown numbers of mammals, particularly during the past three years.

This is the strain that emerged in domestic geese in China in 1997 and quickly jumped to humans in south-east Asia with a mortality rate of around 40-50%. My research group encountered the virus when it killed a mammal, an endangered Owston’s palm civet, in a captive breeding programme in Cuc Phuong National Park Vietnam in 2005.

How these animals caught bird flu was never confirmed. Their diet is mainly earthworms, so they had not been infected by eating diseased poultry like many captive tigers in the region.

This discovery prompted us to collate all confirmed reports of fatal infection with bird flu to assess just how broad a threat to wildlife this virus might pose.

This is how a newly discovered virus in Chinese poultry came to threaten so much of the world’s biodiversity.

H5N1 originated on a Chinese poultry farm in 1997. ChameleonsEye/Shutterstock

The first signs

Until December 2005, most confirmed infections had been found in a few zoos and rescue centres in Thailand and Cambodia. Our analysis in 2006 showed that nearly half (48%) of all the different groups of birds (known to taxonomists as “orders”) contained a species in which a fatal infection of bird flu had been reported. These 13 orders comprised 84% of all bird species.

We reasoned 20 years ago that the strains of H5N1 circulating were probably highly pathogenic to all bird orders. We also showed that the list of confirmed infected species included those that were globally threatened and that important habitats, such as Vietnam’s Mekong delta, lay close to reported poultry outbreaks.

Mammals known to be susceptible to bird flu during the early 2000s included primates, rodents, pigs and rabbits. Large carnivores such as Bengal tigers and clouded leopards were reported to have been killed, as well as domestic cats.

Our 2006 paper showed the ease with which this virus crossed species barriers and suggested it might one day produce a pandemic-scale threat to global biodiversity.

Unfortunately, our warnings were correct.

A roving sickness

Two decades on, bird flu is killing species from the high Arctic to mainland Antarctica.

In the past couple of years, bird flu has spread rapidly across Europe and infiltrated North and South America, killing millions of poultry and a variety of bird and mammal species. A recent paper found that 26 countries have reported at least 48 mammal species that have died from the virus since 2020, when the latest increase in reported infections started.

Not even the ocean is safe. Since 2020, 13 species of aquatic mammal have succumbed, including American sea lions, porpoises and dolphins, often dying in their thousands in South America. A wide range of scavenging and predatory mammals that live on land are now also confirmed to be susceptible, including mountain lions, lynx, brown, black and polar bears.

The UK alone has lost over 75% of its great skuas and seen a 25% decline in northern gannets. Recent declines in sandwich terns (35%) and common terns (42%) were also largely driven by the virus.

Scientists haven’t managed to completely sequence the virus in all affected species. Research and continuous surveillance could tell us how adaptable it ultimately becomes, and whether it can jump to even more species. We know it can already infect humans – one or more genetic mutations may make it more infectious.

At the crossroads

Between January 1 2003 and December 21 2023, 882 cases of human infection with the H5N1 virus were reported from 23 countries, of which 461 (52%) were fatal.

Of these fatal cases, more than half were in Vietnam, China, Cambodia and Laos. Poultry-to-human infections were first recorded in Cambodia in December 2003. Intermittent cases were reported until 2014, followed by a gap until 2023, yielding 41 deaths from 64 cases. The subtype of H5N1 virus responsible has been detected in poultry in Cambodia since 2014. In the early 2000s, the H5N1 virus circulating had a high human mortality rate, so it is worrying that we are now starting to see people dying after contact with poultry again.

It’s not just H5 subtypes of bird flu that concern humans. The H10N1 virus was originally isolated from wild birds in South Korea, but has also been reported in samples from China and Mongolia.

Recent research found that these particular virus subtypes may be able to jump to humans after they were found to be pathogenic in laboratory mice and ferrets. The first person who was confirmed to be infected with H10N5 died in China on January 27 2024, but this patient was also suffering from seasonal flu (H3N2). They had been exposed to live poultry which also tested positive for H10N5.

Species already threatened with extinction are among those which have died due to bird flu in the past three years. The first deaths from the virus in mainland Antarctica have just been confirmed in skuas, highlighting a looming threat to penguin colonies whose eggs and chicks skuas prey on. Humboldt penguins have already been killed by the virus in Chile.

A colony of king penguins.
Remote penguin colonies are already threatened by climate change. AndreAnita/Shutterstock

How can we stem this tsunami of H5N1 and other avian influenzas? Completely overhaul poultry production on a global scale. Make farms self-sufficient in rearing eggs and chicks instead of exporting them internationally. The trend towards megafarms containing over a million birds must be stopped in its tracks.

To prevent the worst outcomes for this virus, we must revisit its primary source: the incubator of intensive poultry farms.

Diana Bell does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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