By Elizabeth Lee Vliet, MD
Zika Virus. The name is in headline news as the latest threat to our health. World Health Organization (WHO) officials declare it a “Public Health Emergency.” The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published an alarming map showing cases diagnosed in the U.S. CDC has asked Congress for more than $2 billion to “rush” research on vaccine development. Dr. Tom Frieden, CDC Medical Director, has been on TV to make a public case for Congress to act promptly, before the “window of time” runs out. So should you be alarmed?
Zika virus has little effect in children and adults, causing mild, if any, symptoms. Most people would not even know they had been bitten by a mosquito carrying the Zika virus. Zika arose primarily in Brazil as a concern in pregnant women because of its association with babies born withmicrocephaly, or smaller than normal head size and brain damage. In the U.S. even without Zika, about 7 in 10,000 babies are born with microcephaly. That is about 3,000 per year in the entire U.S. Zika might add half a dozen more cases. If you are not in an area with Zika-infected mosquitoes, there is practically no risk. You can’t catch Zika from someone coughing on you on the bus, as easily happens with TB.
And while the CDC and the press focus on Zika, what else is happening on the infectious disease front for which no such alerts are being sounded?
Could it be that our politicized CDC is distracting the American public from a much bigger threat with a potentially lethal infectious disease, tuberculosis, which is far more serious to many more people?
Consider these reports just in recent weeks:
- 35% of refugees in Vermont test positive for latent TB, yet officials are silent on how many have active, infectious TB and how many are being treated for the disease. Refugees are being settled in areas such as Rutland VT without public input or approval, and without disclosure of the health risks they pose.
- 22%, or one in every 5 refugees resettled in Minnesota by the federal government tested positive for TB in 2014.
- Minnesota has one of the largest concentrations of Somali refugees, and Somalia is one of the top 10 countries globally for deaths from TB. Recently, two hospital workers in Minnesota tested positive for active TB, and may have exposed more than 140 patients.
- 18% of all refugees resettled in Arizona have latent TB on arrival. Arizona identified 222 cases of TB among refugees whose latent TB became active and infectious.
TB had been virtually eradicated from the United States with our aggressive public health screening and treatment programs for the last 50 years. Most Americans do not even know about TB, much less have awareness of their rapidly increasing risk of being exposed to someone with TB because of the hundreds of thousands of refugees now being dispersed across the US.
Although latent TB is not contagious, it can become active at any time—and be transmitted easily by coughing on people: on the bus, in schools, hospitals, or public events. Unlike with Zika, people infected with TB carry the organism for life. What sort of surveillance is being conducted? Is the “fast track” also a “no track” for screening?
CDC is disregarding its own experts’ advice on screening and treatment of entrants. Federal refugee resettlement officials apparently are testing some refugees for TB, but individuals with known active disease are sent to communities across America anyway! Breitbart investigative journalists reported on refugees known by the federal government to have active TB being sent to Florida (11 cases) and Indiana (4 cases). How many more active TB cases are sent to communities across America, yet no one knows they are there?
Where are the maps to track TB cases? CDC is not publishing information to warn the public about locations in which they have identified cases, or where federal agencies are sending refugees known to have active TB.
Why are refugees carrying deadly disease organisms sent to American cities? Why are infected refugees not quarantined and treated before being resettled in our communities?
At best, CDC has its priorities backwards. At worst, CDC is actively doing harm to Americans. Pouring $2 billion into Zika only reinforces the misallocation of public health resources, and fails to address the more serious disease threats.
Shutting the door to out-of-control immigration, as Donald Trump advocates, is a “first do no harm” common sense measure for public health as well as national security.
Dr. Elizabeth Lee Vliet, M.D.is a preventive and climacteric medicine specialist with medical practices in Tucson AZ and Dallas TX that take an integrated approach to evaluation and treatment of women and men with complex medical and hormonal problems. Dr. Vliet is also President of International Health Strategies, Ltd., a global healthcare and education service company whose mission is twofold: liberty and privacy in treatment options and preservation of the Oath of Hippocrates focus on the individual patient.
Dr. Vliet is the 2007 recipient of the Voice of Women award from the Arizona Foundation for Women for her pioneering advocacy for the overlooked hormone connections in women’s health. Dr. Vliet received her M.D. degree and internship in Internal Medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School, then completed specialty training at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Dr. Vliet is a Director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons.Dr. Vliet has appeared on FOX NEWS, Cavuto, Stuart Varney Show, Fox and Friends and syndicated radio shows across the country addressing the economic and medical impact of the new healthcare bill.
Dr. Vliet’s books include: It’s My Ovaries, Stupid!; Screaming To Be Heard: Hormonal Connections Women Suspect– And Doctors STILL Ignore; Women, Weight and Hormones; The Savvy Woman’s Guide to PCOS, The Savvy Woman’s Guide to Testosterone.