Unrestricted immigration: The medical costs continue to rise

Unrestricted immigration: The medical costs continue to rise

Whether or not you approve of the dramatic and permanent changes immigration is bringing to this country, you will have to adjust to some of the realities associated with them, including the potential onslaught of exotic diseases.

One of these, unimaginable a few years ago, is a parasite that burrows into your brain. It is a pork tapeworm, not found in pork from the U.S. but commonly found in native Hispanics. Fifty or more cases are seen yearly in the Houston area alone. It is not unreasonable to assume that for every case of a disease diagnosed, there are 10 or more undiscovered infected people in the community. Nationally, 1,000 to 2,000 new cases are reported annually. (Multiply that by 10 and see what you get.)

Neurocysticercosis (“new-ro-systi-ser-kosis”) occurs after a person ingests water or food contaminated by human feces containing tapeworm eggs. A person, usually from Mexico or Central America, has, before coming to this country, eaten undercooked pork containing the parasite and has become infected. The parasite lives in the intestine and sheds eggs into the feces. Unclean hands and fingernails spread the parasite to food and water-and then to you.

Then starts the terrible part of this worm’s journey through your body. It prefers to live in your central nervous system-the eye, the spine, and the brain. It forms cysts in these areas and so can mimic any neurological disorder from MS, to brain tumor, to Alzheimer’s-or all of the above. Symptoms may include headaches, vomiting, dizziness, blurred vision, psychosis, stroke, and seizures. Blindness and death are not uncommon. It is difficult to treat and, even if cured, may leave the patient crippled for life.

Action to take:

(1) If you hire Hispanics, you want to see more than a green card. You want a recent medical certificate showing they are not infected with this or any other parasitic disease, such as Giardia lamblia or amebiasis. They should also be checked for TB, which is in resurgence.

(2) Check the fingernails of kitchen workers daily. If they resent it-fire them.

(3) Do the restaurants you frequent check for these diseases? Do they have Hispanic immigrants handling food? Find out and act accordingly. RH

Houston Chronicle, 11/1/00, Medical Writer Leigh Hopper