Did Enterovirus 68 Enter The USA Illegally Over The Border With Mexico?
Early this morning, in response to an article I wrote about sudden demands to stop travel from West Africa in order to stop the Ebola virus from entering the United States, an Irregular Times reader wrote in, suggesting that, “there is another agenda at work. Obama lets in unscreened diseased illegal children by the tens of thousands june through august. September entero 68 starts killing American children.”
It turns out that this comment isn’t an isolated expression of fear. Across the Internet, similar ideas have begun to spread, almost like an infectious disease.
As is often the case, this particular ideological fever hasn’t spread spontaneously. It’s been encouraged by right wing radio. A few weeks ago, Rush Limbaugh said to his listeners, “We had these kids cross the border from El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, wherever they came from in Central America, and they were processed real quickly. They were gotten in, gotten out, and they’ve been distributed all over the country. And Obama won’t tell anybody where he put them… Are the two stories related or are they not? Does this sweeping, mysterious virus that’s multiplying across the Midwest, does it have anything to do with it or not?”
Careful readers will notice that Limbaugh uses the cheap debating tactic of asking ominous rhetorical questions without ever bothering to answer them. Limbaugh creates the suggestion that he has reason to believe that children from Central America have caused the enterovirus 68 outbreak, without ever presenting any evidence of such a connection.
The suggestion has been dutifully picked up by right wing writers, who have converted Limbaugh’s loaded questions into confident statements of fact. Stephanie A. Buist, of Now The End Begins, tells her readers that “Illegal Immigrant Children Are Bringing Deadly Enterovirus D68 Across The Border”. Jeannie DeAngelis, at the right wing site “American Thinker”, writes, “The obvious question is this: Where did Enterovirus EV-D68 originate and did it ‘entero’ the U.S. via illegal children? Dr. Besser contended that enteroviruses tend to show up in the summer, which, this year, just so happens to coincide with thousands of unvaccinated and sickly illegal children infiltrating the U.S. border… I guess for liberals, sedated kids on breathing tubes is but a small price to pay if it furthers Obama’s agenda to welcome “unaccompanied minors” into our nation, our classrooms, and, if it comes down to it, even into our children’s lung tissue.”
The Dr. Besser that DeAngelis refers to is Richard Besser, a medical correspondent for ABC News. Dr. Besser’s comments are referred to by a number of right wing conspiracy theorists who assert that enterovirus 68 came into the United States with unaccompanied minors from Central America. If DeAngelis had listened more carefully to what Dr. Besser actually said, however, she would have noticed Besser’s explanation that enterovirus 68 first arrived in the United States in 1962. The Washington Post notes that there were widespread outbreaks of enterovirus 68 in Georgia, Pennsylvania and Arizona in 2008, 2009, and 2010.
The logic reasoning needed to debunk the idea that unaccompanied children who crossed into the United States through Mexico in the summer of 2014 is not complicated. If enterovirus 68 has been in the United States for 52 years, it could not have been brought into the United States by an event that took place a few months ago. There is no evidence that causally links this autumn’s outbreak of enterovirus 68 in the United with the travel of a relatively small number of children from Central America into the United States this summer.