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How words surrounding migrant caravan evolved

From social media to mainstream news outlets, CNN's Brian Stelter looks at how the words surrounding immigrants and specifically the migrant caravan have evolved.

Posted: Nov 2, 2018 7:34 AM
Updated: Nov 2, 2018 7:34 AM

The Trump administration says a group of migrants now making their way through Mexico is a national security threat, and some conservative commentators claim that they are a threat to Americans' health. But experts say the people whose health is most at risk are the migrants themselves.

A story in the right-wing magazine The New American this weekend was headlined Will Migrant Caravan Kill Your Child - With Disease? On Monday, "Fox& Friends" co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed that the refugees pose a threat because they carry "diseases" and shouldn't be let in.

A commentator on Fox, former immigration agent David Ward, also claimed that the migrants carry disease "such as smallpox and leprosy and [tuberculosis] that are going to infect our people in the United States." Later, according to the Daily Beast, Fox's press office sent out a clip clarifying the issue that mentioned only TB and leprosy and added, "we have no way of independently confirming this."

These claims are unlikely, experts say.

The World Health Assembly declared the world free of smallpox in May 1980, considered the biggest achievement in international public health, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Leprosy is extremely rare, and although the World Health Organization says there are some cases in the Americas, 94% of them were reported in Brazil a study of the region between 2003-2013 found. The migrants are mostly fleeing Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, and those countries had a tiny number of cases.

Tuberculosis is a problem around the world. The United States saw 9,105 cases in 2017, according to the CDC.

Pueblo Sin Fronteras, a nonprofit working with the migrants, says that some people in the group are in a "delicate condition" but that their health issues don't relate to diseases that would be a threat to others. Rather, there are threats to their own health that stem from their difficult circumstances.

The migrants have walked hundreds of miles, many wearing only flip-flops, rubber clogs and sneakers that are falling apart. They have limited food and water. They've had to cross rivers and battle grueling heat and torrential rains. They sleep outside, on sidewalks or on floors. Many are exhausted, but still they walk a daily marathon.

"I am feeling some chills. I have had a fever for a few days," Carlos Gomez told CNN on Sunday. An out-of-work farmhand from Honduras, he says he has no choice but to walk. He needs to find a way to earn a living and to feed his eight children. "There is no work anymore. The government took our lands," he said.

Federal and state health departments in Mexico are working closely with the caravan, as is the Cruz Roja Mexicana, or the Mexican Red Cross.

Isaac Oxenhault of Cruz Roja Mexicana, who worked with the migrants when they reached Tapachula, said his group has treated more than 2,000 people for health problems. Foot injuries from the long journey are most common, he said, estimating that the Red Cross has treated 1,300 to 1,400 people for these issues.

Cruz Roja Mexicana has also treated about 400 people for problems with dehydration, supplying water and in some cases using IVs. Some have been treated for stomach problems, but these cases have been minimal, Oxenhault said.

At least three women have gone into labor, the Red Cross said, though all gave birth in hospitals. The Red Cross transported one of them for care. As far as serious illnesses like cancer or HIV, Oxenhault said, it has no record of any of those problems.

"There are general health needs besides this crisis and they are vulnerable in different ways, because many don't get formal medical care. They have not had preventative or curative care before," said Dr. Ricardo Perez Cuevas with the Mexican Institute of Public Health. "In terms of the possibility to infect other people, very low possibility."

Cuevas hopes to work with the migrant population to get more information about their general health and to make sure they get the help they need like vaccinations and general care. "Health care is a human right. It should not just be about avoiding disease, it should be about getting proper care."

Rene Leyva who works with Cuevas on immigrant health issues said to remember that migrant caravans are not a new phenomenon and for at least 15 years this team, and the public health sector overall in Mexico, have learned how to provide good health to the migrants traveling from Central America. "These are not health problems that would cause an epidemic, not at all, but there are some urgent situations of poor health conditions that come from exposure to the sun and to mosquitoes, perhaps food-related illness like diarrhea, and the risk of being hurt from car accidents on the road, but our health system has the capacity to resolve those consequences. They are not going to transmit disease from these countries to Mexico or elsewhere"

Of the 5,000 to 6,000 people who remain in the group, many are children facing their own health challenges.

Dr. Julie Linton, a pediatrician who works with immigrants from the region in the United States, but has not worked with this particular group, said that the No. 1 concern for children in such circumstances is trauma.

"What often gets lost in the rhetoric is that these families that are leaving are fleeing violence. These parents are seeking safety for their children and their family, and when we talk about people making this kind of journey, they are doing this and everything they can do to protect health and safety," said Linton, co-chairwoman of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Immigrant Health Special Interest Group.

Trauma can interfere with sleep, lead to challenges with bed-wetting and create eating problems. Parents may also see a change in their child's behavior, Linton said.

Children who have experienced trauma can have exaggerated responses to situations and problems with peers. They can experience a deep fear of separation from their parents. Trauma can hurt memory, limit concentration and make organizing thoughts difficult.

The trauma facing migrants in these circumstances doesn't start with the act of migration.

"I've taken care of children and families who have experienced direct threats or experienced physical harm from gangs and others. That trauma is why they leave," Linton said.

Even if the journey itself is hard and the outcome is uncertain, the result could help their health.

"What we know about the social determinants of health that can impact through someone's lifespan is that children are best able to achieve their dreams and survive trauma when they have access to safety and support and have a loving adult in their life that can shepherd them through childhood," Linton said. "These families are undergoing this treacherous journey feeling that they have no choice but to seek safety for their families elsewhere."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 343505

Reported Deaths: 7543
CountyCasesDeaths
Hinds23932444
DeSoto23229283
Harrison20527329
Rankin15411291
Jackson15232252
Madison10959227
Lee10719179
Jones9047169
Forrest8723159
Lauderdale7884244
Lowndes7054151
Lamar702989
Lafayette6548124
Washington5595139
Pearl River5196152
Bolivar4954134
Oktibbeha494398
Panola4771112
Warren4728128
Marshall4701106
Pontotoc447773
Union433279
Monroe4330137
Neshoba4281181
Hancock428088
Lincoln4176116
Pike3667113
Leflore3627125
Tate353388
Alcorn350974
Sunflower347694
Scott341176
Adams340988
Yazoo339376
Copiah324968
Simpson322891
Itawamba314680
Coahoma314085
Tippah306568
Prentiss298863
Covington293484
Leake285475
Marion284181
Wayne277543
George272251
Grenada269488
Newton262364
Tishomingo239770
Winston236784
Jasper230648
Stone229637
Attala226373
Chickasaw219060
Holmes200174
Clay197654
Clarke186880
Tallahatchie183742
Calhoun181332
Smith179235
Yalobusha171540
Walthall145748
Lawrence142826
Greene140134
Amite137543
Noxubee135235
Perry133538
Montgomery133044
Carroll126431
Webster121232
Jefferson Davis116734
Tunica114227
Benton106725
Claiborne105331
Kemper102429
Humphreys100133
Franklin87923
Quitman84719
Choctaw82619
Wilkinson78032
Jefferson71328
Sharkey51618
Issaquena1736
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 587405

Reported Deaths: 11536
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson853851591
Mobile48932864
Madison37517533
Shelby27280257
Tuscaloosa27171465
Montgomery26172627
Baldwin25399329
Lee17224181
Calhoun15401334
Morgan15170291
Etowah14954370
Marshall13116235
Houston12077293
Elmore10915219
St. Clair10763252
Limestone10725158
Cullman10546205
Lauderdale10255254
DeKalb9508192
Talladega8949188
Walker7793288
Autauga7563114
Jackson7400117
Blount7362139
Colbert6703142
Coffee6365132
Dale5650117
Russell480243
Chilton4771117
Covington4749125
Franklin458181
Tallapoosa4519156
Escambia441383
Chambers3949125
Dallas3743163
Clarke371263
Marion3463107
Pike332579
Lawrence3263100
Winston298773
Bibb290465
Geneva283983
Marengo262467
Barbour250961
Pickens245562
Butler240872
Hale235578
Fayette227065
Henry213945
Monroe202141
Randolph201144
Cherokee199248
Washington185239
Macon170552
Crenshaw168358
Clay166259
Cleburne161345
Lamar151038
Lowndes145455
Wilcox132331
Bullock126542
Conecuh121332
Coosa118329
Perry110528
Sumter110333
Greene99137
Choctaw64425
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The heat wave that controlled our area over the past several days is now behind us. The forecast for the next week looks a bit cooler & less humid.
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