Monday, May 23, 2005

Deadly Leprosy Epidemic Threatens America's Future!

As most readers probably know, we face a grave risk of a deadly influenza pandemic.

But that's not what's upsetting BushCo's handmaidens at WorldNetDaily. No, they're worried about leprosy.

Leprosy, the contagious skin disease evoking thoughts of biblical and medieval times, is now making its mark in the United States, and many believe the influx of illegal aliens is a main factor.
Of course, the real problem, as regards immigration and travel - legal and otherwise - is TB; avian flu is another serious consideration. But for some strange reason, WND prefers to harp on the "danger" of Hansen's Disease, a rare illness that happens to be slow-moving, eminently treatable, not terribly contagious, and declining worldwide.

It seems pretty obvious that WND chose to accuse illegal immigrants of spreading "leprosy" primarily because they believed it would resonate strongly with fundamentalist Christians (along with all the other know-nothing dimwits and hysterics who make up BushCo's base). Rapture Ready, of course, has already picked up the story.

The WND piece is essentially a rewrite of a week-old article by Ben Whitford, which appeared on the Columbia News Service site. The article was titled "Leprosy in America: New Cause for Concern." That title's a bit alarmist for my taste, but it's certainly preferable to WND's "Invasion USA: Are illegals making U.S. a leper colony?" It's also worth noting that Whitford's article doesn't focus specifically on illegal immigrants, but on immigration in general.

The Whitford story includes details that WND tellingly left out, such as this bit of information from Steve Pfeiffer, head of statistics and epidemiology at the National Hansen's Disease Program:
Pfeiffer...stressed that people with leprosy become non-infectious almost immediately after they receive treatment--and that most people who are exposed to leprosy in others never succumb to the disease.
WND has some other tricks up its sleeve. Have a look at this paragraph from Whitford's story:
[T]he short time between many immigrants’ entry to the US and their diagnosis with leprosy suggests that some immigrants, mostly from Mexico, may now be coming to the U.S. specifically to seek treatment, Pfeifer said.
I'm not thrilled with how this is written, because it sloppily implies that "many" immigrants are diagnosed with leprosy. What Whitford's trying to say is this: of the tiny number of immigrants found to have leprosy, "many" were diagnosed not long after arriving in the United States, which suggests that "some" of them may have come to the United States for treatment. In other words, some portion of some percentage of a vanishingly small minority may be seeking treatment in the United States.

Now, look at how WND rewords this:
But Pfeifer suggests many aliens are coming to the U.S. specifically to get treated for their skin condition, due to the short time between many immigrants' entry to the U.S. and their diagnosis with leprosy.
Here, the ambiguity in Whitford's account is intensified, and "many" is used where Whitford was careful to use "some." The implication is that lepers are pouring into the country, threatening us all with disfigurement and death, and putting an intolerable strain on our public-health infrastructure. (It's worth mentioning here that the WHO offers free multidrug treatment to HD sufferers in many poor countries.)

To be fair, WND does quote Dr. Denis Daumerie, head of the World Health Organization's leprosy-elimination program, who sneers at the idea of a leprosy epidemic:
"There is no risk of an epidemic of leprosy....There's absolutely no risk that the few immigrants who are affected by the disease, if they are diagnosed and treated, will spread the disease in the U.S."
But given the misleading vividness of the opening paragraph, and the implication that Daumerie is in a minority (despite his views being pretty much in line with Pfeiffer's, in the original article), I suspect that WND's readers will see Daumerie as an objectively pro-leprosy America-hater, and proceed blithely onwards to spittle-flecked, anti-immigrant hysteria.


Cervantes said...

Well, this is no problem, the Bible gives us the solution. Lepers should be driven into the desert, where they must rend their clothes and cry "unclean, unclean"!

The Bible is our infallible guide to living, in this as in all other matters.

WHT said...

The underlying concern to the Furitans is that leper colonies have low birth rates. You always see the statistics of leper colonies placed next to birth rates of urban areas infested with homosexuals. When I saw this, I puzzled over it, but your post clarified the issue. It's all about creating a climate of fear and paranoia to these people.