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One of America’s leading physicians is warning it’s time to stop looking at the flood of illegal immigrants crossing the U.S. border from Mexico as a political issue to be bantered about, but a serious medical issue that could erupt into an emergency room “catastrophe.”

Dr. Jane Orient, an internal medicine specialist and the executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, was interviewed on “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio” on New York’s 970 AM The Answer Sunday.

“This really should not be a political issue, but rather a public health and humanitarian issue,” Orient said. “We already have overburdened emergency rooms, we already have a serious shortage of intravenous solutions for rehydrating people, so, you know, when you’re importing, say, up to 100,000 people who are susceptible to something like [tuberculosis or norovirus], it affects not only those children but anyone they come in contact with.”

As many as 80,000 children, many smuggled in by human traffickers without their parents, are expected to cross the southern U.S. border illegally in 2014, according to U.S. Border Patrol, but if the flood of illegal border crossings seen over the past few months continues, the government may need to revise those estimates upward.

As WND has reported, several health experts have warned the tens of thousands of immigrants entering the nation without health screenings or vaccinations, potentially carrying diseases largely stamped out or unknown in the U.S., is becoming a medical crisis.

Klein talked with Orient about the dangers of tuberculosis, norovirus and the measles, specifically, then asked her if an outbreak or epidemic in the U.S. is inevitable.

“We could very easily have a big public health catastrophe,” Orient answered. “This could really put a huge burden on our public health facilities as well as just our emergency rooms for treating common diseases.”

“Tuberculosis is the single most dangerous disease because it is highly contagious and can be easily picked up at the mall, at a school, or on the bus,” Orient told Breitbart News in an earlier interview. “Cases coming from south of the U.S. border can be very resistant to medications. They don’t respond to traditional antibiotics, and the few drugs they may respond to are often toxic, with lots of side effects.

“Legal immigrants have always been required to undergo health screenings,” Orient continued, “but these kids coming have no medical screenings and no vaccine records. They’re likely coming here with a number of infectious diseases that will spread like wildfire.

“Norovirus is also an extremely contagious virus with symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea,” she explained. “All we need is one outbreak of that virus and we would have an overwhelming public health crisis.”

Listen to Klein’s interview with Dr. Orient below:

Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., told WND, “President Obama’s non-enforcement immigration doctrine seemingly invites illegal border crossings, which brings with it a wave of illnesses and diseases that have long been stamped out in America.”

Gingrey, a 30-year practicing physician, said the threat posed to American families is very real.

“There is a logistical nightmare these scarce diseases impose on the medical community,” he said. “The White House must stop neglecting the consequences of its reckless, open-border policies and protect the health and safety of our citizens – not to mention the security of our nation.”

Dr. Elizabeth Lee Vliet broke the story earlier this month that a public health emergency was brewing in south Texas and Arizona border communities.

“A public health crisis, the likes of which I have not seen in my lifetime, is looming,” she reported. “Hardest hit by exposures to these difficult-to-treat diseases will be elderly, children, immunosuppressed cancer-patients, patients with chronic lung disease or congestive heart failure. Drug-resistant tuberculosis is the most serious risk, but even diseases like measles can cause severe complications and death in older or immunocompromised patients.

“TB is highly contagious – you catch it anywhere around infected people: schools, malls, buses, etc. The drug-resistant TB now coming across our borders requires a complex, extremely expensive treatment regimen that has serious side effects and a low cure rate.”

Chagas, or “kissing bug” disease, caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, is carried by the triatomine bug that transmits disease to humans, Vliet reported. Although “kissing bugs” are already here, they are not as widespread as in Latin America. Right now, Chagas disease is uncommon in the U.S., so many doctors do not think to check for it.

Furthermore, Texas public health officials have confirmed a new wave of dengue fever has cropped up in the southernmost tip of Texas, marking the first outbreak the state has seen since 2005, according to reports in the Scientific American. Texas public health officials announced that the same area that saw an outbreak almost a decade ago now has 18 confirmed cases of the disease. Seven are believed to have been locally acquired (rather than contracted when traveling to a dengue-endemic region), according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. The dengue outbreak in southern Texas’s Cameron County and neighboring Hidalgo County comes after there had been an uptick in cases directly across the Texas-Mexico border in Tamaulipas over the last couple of months.

The border area of Texas has also seen an uptick in the number of dengue fever cases since late last year. In the last decade, Cameron County, Texas, has seen 27 cases, so the 14 occurrences in that county over the past few weeks is significantly higher than normal, according to reports from Texas public health officials.

South Texas has a greater incidence of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, listeriosis and dengue fever than other parts of the state. The border area, with large population centers and multiple border crossings, make the prevalence of TB higher than in other regions of the state or the country, according to the CDC.

South Texas had a higher rate of active TB disease during 2001-05, with 8.6 persons per 100,000 population, than the rest of the state, according to CDC statistics. Of the 13 Texas counties with the highest incidence of TB, seven are located in South Texas. These counties have more than twice the state average rate of TB. Webb County alone had a TB rate of 19 persons per 100,000 population in 2001-2005.

In an effort to address the high incidence of TB along the Texas-Mexico border, the Grupo Sin Fronteras TB Binational Project was established in 1995 by the commissioners of health for Texas and the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. The program provides medical consultations and education on the transmission, prevention and treatment of TB. Successes of the program include the identification of high rates of drug-resistant TB in Mexico.

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