The Measles Outbreak & Illegal Immigration Aren't Connected, CDC Says, Dismissing Republican Suggestions

While the GOP has not exactly cultivated a reputation for being enthusiastic proponents of immigration, the recent suggestions by some Republican lawmakers has compelled the Centers for Disease Control to put a stop to the unduly fearmongering. On Monday, the CDC said undocumented immigrants aren't responsible for the measles outbreak, hopefully putting a rest to the links between the epidemic and illegal immigration to the U.S.

During a webinar hosted by the National Press Foundation on Monday, Dr. Anne Schuchat, director for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said that there was no evidence to support allegations that the measles outbreak — now with over 150 cases having been confirmed — is being imported to the country by undocumented immigrants. Schuchat said:

I know that immigration is a complicated issue and people have strong feelings about [it]. The thing to say is that the region of the Americas was the first region to actually eliminate measles.

Although measles was imported in high numbers from Latin America prior to 2000, countries in the region have since pushed for strict public health campaigns. In fact, a number of Latin American countries — including many nations in the developing world like Zimbabwe, Libya, Iran, and Turkmenistan, to name but a few — have higher rates of measles vaccination rates than the U.S. does. Schuchat added that if anything, data has shown that the recent epidemic is being exported to Mexico from the U.S.:

The year’s outbreak, associated with the Disney park, the US exported measles virus to Mexico. So we see the virus unfortunately going the other direction.

The webinar was not the first time the doctor has had to dismiss such unfounded charges. At a Senate health committee hearing earlier this month, Schuchat said that a majority of the disease's importation each year are in Americans who return from abroad. Later, when Sen. Bill Cassidy, a physician himself, expressed concern that some immigrants might have "fallen between the cracks," she responded that the spread was not happening along the U.S.-Mexico border, but in upscale California areas:

With the measles we are seeing spread in some of the wealthier communities in California, for instance.

However, some Republican lawmakers remained adamant that the CDC should not dismiss undocumented immigrants as the source of the disease. Responding to Schuchat's remarks on Monday, Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama told The Huffington Post that the department had not traced the source of each case in the country and therefore could not come to that conclusion:

It is mind-boggling that the CDC would take a political position that the only people who bring measles to the United States are legal foreigners. If you look at their reports, there are lots of cases where they just don’t know what foreigner brought measles into the United States.
China Photos/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Brooks' obstinacy is perhaps characteristic of the political system where a lawmaker has influence over an issue despite his or her lack of knowledge on the topic. In response to Brooks' comment, CDC spokeswoman Amy Rowland told The Huffington Post that an outbreak's exact origin was not necessary to pinpoint the source of the disease and how it may have arrived at the U.S. Rowland said:

Just because we don't know patient zero doesn't mean we don't know the strain.

Image: National Press Foundation/Youtube; Getty Images (1)