An Obama administration plan to facilitate the immigration of up to 100,000 Haitians to immigrate to the U.S. without a visa is fraught with medical risks, particularly the spread of diseases endemic to Haiti.
The Caribbean country is currently in the midst of outbreaks of cholera and the chikungunya virus.
It also has the highest incidence of HIV and AIDS infection for any country outside of Africa.
The prevalence of chikungunya is especially worrisome since the aggressive mosquito required to transmit the disease was discovered earlier this month in California.
Two weeks ago, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a branch of the Department of Homeland Security, announced it plans to expedite a program to reunite Haitians already living in the U.S. with family members abroad.
According to the Associated Press, about 100,000 Haitians have already been approved to arrive in the U.S. under the reunification program but are waiting in Haiti for visas.
The Washington Times reported Sen. Chuck Grassley, R- Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, warned the numbers could exceed the public estimates. He said the program was “likely just the beginning of the president’s unilateral and executive actions on immigration.”
Grassley questioned whether the Haitians would be provided with proper medical screening prior to arrival.
He asked: “Will there by medical screenings before entry? Will work permits be granted automatically? How will this affect American workers?”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requires some medical screening for all applicants outside the U.S. applying for an immigrant visa.
However, the regulations for the arriving Haitians under the expedited program was not immediately clear.
The CDC did not immediately respond to a WND request for clarification about the medical screening for the arriving Haitians.
The CDC reports an outbreak of a South Asian strain of cholera has been ongoing in Haiti since October 2010.
According to reports, at least 715,000 people in Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Cuba have been sickened by cholera, with nearly 9,000 dying of the disease.
Haitian cholera reportedly spread to Mexico in September 2013.
The CDC describes the symptoms of cholera, a bacterial disease that the agency documents “can cause diarrhea and dehydration.”
Continues the CDC: “Cholera is most often spread through the ingestion of contaminated food or drinking water. Water may be contaminated by the feces of an infected person or by untreated sewage. Food is often contaminated by water containing cholera bacteria or by being handled by a person ill with cholera.”
Haiti also has the highest HIV infection rate outside of Africa, with some estimates putting the rate as high as 5 percent in the urban population and 3 percent in rural areas.
The quality of medical care in Haiti is poor. Health care spending in Haiti ranks last in the entire Western Hemisphere, with an average of 25 physicians and 11 nurses per 100,000 Haitians.
Another disease ravaging Haiti is chikungunya, which brings paralyzing joint pain. As of June, there were 27,541 cases reported in the country.
Haiti has also experienced outbreaks of yellow fever.
Both chikungunya and yellow fever are spread by the Aedes aegypti, a mosquito that is also capable of spreading dengue fever and other diseases.
The yellow fever mosquitoes were found Oct. 7 and 8 in the Los Angeles counties of Commerce and Pico Rivera, as the Los Angeles Times reported last Wednesday.
The Times reported that determining how the Aedes species were introduced to California has been difficult. Officials, the paper said, blame imported tires and plants, but it also can travel via planes, ships and other vehicles.
Like scores of other media outlets covering the story, the L.A. Times failed to note the yellow fever mosquitoes, which are thought to have originated in Africa, are now present in tropical areas such as Central and South America and the northeast coast of Mexico.
The insects’ presence in Latin America means the mosquitoes or their eggs could just as easily have been transported into the U.S. in baggage, clothing, food, or liquids carried by illegal aliens crossing the border.
The female mosquitoes can lay up to 300 eggs at a time, with the future progeny usually deposited in clusters. Eggs are usually laid on the surface of stagnant water and can hatch in as little as an inch of standing water.
Further, many of the viruses that can be transmitted by the mosquito, such as chikungunya, which brings paralyzing joint pain, and yellow fever have been ravaging not only Africa but also Latin America and Central America.
The World Health Organization’s global alert on yellow fever, for example, documents the disease is “endemic in 10 South and Central American countries and in several Caribbean islands.”
“The disease was originally imported into the Americas from Africa, but became widely established there,” the alert adds.
With additional research by Brenda J. Elliott.