The Spanish flu of 1918 to 1920 killed roughly 50 million people as it spread across the globe. Now the world potentially faces another such global health catastrophe.
The swine flu of 2009 has already taken the lives of more than 100 people and has sickened people in at least 12 countries.
There have been variants of the swine flu for years as it is a virus that is normally transmitted among pigs but that occasionally spreads to humans. According to Bloomberg News, in 1976, researchers became worried about a strain of swine flu and immunized Americans to prevent its spread.
The 2009 strain of swine flu has mixed its genes with other strains of the flu and mutated into a new disease against which we have little immunity. The result has been that the mortality rate has risen significantly – perhaps as high as 10 percent.
Instead of killing only a few people as normal influenza strains do, the swine flu is quite lethal. Normal influenza generally kills only the young, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.
The swine flu, by contrast, seems to be most lethal in people between the ages of 20 and 45, according to Mexican news reports.
Since people of that age are more likely to come into contact with others, the disease can spread much faster than the normal flu, where the carriers are generally immobile.
The result of this is that the world is faced with a rapidly spreading epidemic to which there are few answers. Already, according to a Google Map that tracks the spread of the disease, the Swine Flu is in California, Texas, New York, Ohio, Kansas and Indiana. By the time you read this, it will no doubt have spread further, perhaps even to Colorado.
How did the disease get this far so quickly? While some of it may have inevitably gotten here, one must ask if we could have kept the disease out of the country if we enforced our border with Mexico.
As I’ve frequently argued, it is dangerous to leave a border open with a developing nation. Who knows what will come in? Drugs, gangs, weapons, terrorists and even, apparently, deadly diseases.
I’m all for legal immigration. We need a policy that will allow American companies to hire foreign labor.
However, my desire for legal immigration does not transfer into sympathy for illegal immigration. It is foolhardy for America to continue to allow all sorts of hazards into our country.
Building fencing around major border cities would prevent all but the most determined of illegal immigrants from crossing the border. Instead of allowing people to come to America illegally, we could then give them visas and make sure they are not a danger to our country first.
If someone applies for a visa with a 103-degree fever, they aren’t going to get in until their health improves. This simple step would stop both tuberculous and the swine flu from easily spreading into America.
The majority of the cases of swine flu in America are located in Texas and California, according to Google Maps. It should be no surprise that when we leave our border wide open for any and all visitors, mysterious diseases appear in our border states.
Would swine flu have made it to the U.S. if we had a secure border? Probably. But there would have been much less of it and we could have contained it far more easily.
How many people will die because our loose immigration enforcement policy let a dangerous disease walk right across our border? We don’t yet know, but when you combine the deaths from diseases, drugs and gang violence that come in from Mexico, it is clear that action must be taken to force immigrants to come here legally and to keep out criminals and disease-carriers.
Ian Bezek is a junior economics major. His column appears Tuesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to email@example.com.