NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 20, 2005

Health care professionals in Arizona are growing worried about the resurgence of some serious infectious diseases, and some suspect illegal immigrants as the source, says the Business Journal of Phoenix.

A rise in diseases such as whooping cough, tuberculosis (TB), malaria, measles and even leprosy are creating public health concerns and could hit hospitals and health care systems already financially burdened by indigent illegals flooding emergency rooms and urgent care centers.

  • The Maricopa County Health Department reported a 100 percent increase in the number of cases of whooping cough (pertussis) over the past year.
  • In 40 years, only 900 persons were afflicted by leprosy in the United States, but in the past three years more than 7,000 cases have been presented.

Many health experts are also concerned about Mexican immigrants bringing tuberculosis with them to border states.

  • Recent federal reports indicate half of U.S. TB cases are from immigrants and the rate of TB along the Mexican border roughly doubles the U.S. national average.
  • Last year, there were 14,500 TB cases in the United States and 16,000 cases in Mexico, with one quarter coming from border areas.

Observers worry about the spread of disease because of the prevalence of migrant labor in the food-service industry. While some states require brief health screenings for new hires, state laws may prohibit employers from asking about medical conditions as a condition for employment.

Increased diseases also require hospitals and health care systems to dedicate more resources from an already strained system. Hospitals and government often foot the bill for treating migrants, many of whom are indigent and have no health care coverage.

Source: Angela Gonzales and Mike Sunnucks, "Higher Disease Rates Attributed To Influx of Illegals," Business Journal of Phoenix, May 15, 2005.

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