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article imageOp-Ed: The real Ebola threat for the U.S. is our Southern border

By Karen Graham     Oct 15, 2014 in Health
Marine Corps Gen. John F. Kelly, the commander of the U.S. Southern Command, says the real threat from the Ebola virus coming into the U.S. is not by international flights. The threat would be if Ebola breaks out in Central America.
With the evident unpreparedness of the U.S. health care system to handle Ebola patients, questions are being asked about the readiness of other countries to handle Ebola. This very question was addressed by the head of the Southern Command, Gen. John Kelly.
Kelly told reporters on Monday that he has been speaking with leaders of Central and South American countries. They expressed concerns about the upcoming winter vacation season, when many travelers will be vacationing in the Caribbean, going to and from the islands, often without going through airport screenings the U.S. has put in place.
Kelly said small countries, such as Haiti and many Central American nations would not have the capabilities to handle an outbreak, should that problem arise. Kelly said he has already sent a military planner and a medical expert to Germany. They will work with Africa Command officials in order to prepare the Southern Command should Ebola break out.
During a break at the Defense Ministers of the Americas Conference, held in Peru, Kelly said, "There is no fear mongering here. It's part of my job to anticipate that kind of thing. A lot of countries don't have really capable preventive medicine. It's not that they don't have any medical capabilities, it's that they don't have a lot."
How safe is the U.S. border with Mexico?
Kelly also pointed to the recent problems the U.S. has had with frightened parents sending their children across the border between Mexico and the U.S. to escape gang violence. The General said it was very possible that in an Ebola outbreak, parents would send their children to the U.S. to escape the Ebola virus.
Kelly's advise to these countries was for them to stay in close communication with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as other health care organizations. But he also said he is telling military leaders the U.S. will help countries if problems arise.
According to, Kelly foresees a mass stampede across the Rio Grande, should Ebola breakout in Central America. “If it breaks out, it’s literally, ‘Katie bar the door,’ and there will be mass migration into the United States,” said Gen. Kelly. “They will run away from Ebola, or if they suspect they are infected, they will try to get to the United States for treatment.”
Kelly's comments were made on the day before Thomas Eric Duncan died. Kelly recalled talking to an embassy official who had made a trip to the Nicaragua-Costa Rica border. The official told Kelly he had seen a line of men “waiting in line to pass into Nicaragua and then on their way north.”
Kelly said the official asked them where they were from. “They told him they were from Liberia and they had been on the road about a week. They were on their way to the United States—illegally, of course,” Kelly said. They “could have made it to New York City and still be within the incubation period for Ebola.”
The lack of transparency by our leaders is unconscionable
The real concern, and it should be a concern for the White House as well as the Governors of our border states, is protecting our southern border. Thousands of people are flowing across our border, and there are indeed illegal immigrants from West African countries among them.
Right now, immigration reform legislation has been put on the back burner until after the elections, and it could be a disastrous move for our lawmakers if the Ebola outbreak becomes worse. This is not meant to be fear-mongering. It's being sensible. Yet our lawmakers are ignoring the need to keep the public safe.
Next to the apparent disregard for protecting our southern border is the confusion shown by the CDC in how to handle the few cases we have in the U.S.. This country was warned months ago of the possibility of Ebola showing up on our borders. No one was really prepared. As the nation's top health agency, the CDC has left the country to scramble around in the dark, making mistakes.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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