U.S. Border Patrol agents say an incident along the Texas-Mexico border Wednesday night is a clear warning that they are not prepared to deal with the threat of people infected with Ebola and other communicable diseases trying to cross into the United States.
Agents in the Rio Grande Valley border sector apprehended a man from the eastern African nation of Eritrea who was trying to cross illegally into the U.S.
Agents told TheBlaze it isn’t the first time they’ve apprehended someone from Africa or “special interest aliens” – persons from nations with known terrorist ties – trying to cross the border. But in this case, the potential for disease, not terrorism, was their primary concern.
There have been no reported cases of Ebola virus in Eritrea; the outbreak has been limited to the West Africa countries of Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, with individual cases diagnosed in Spain and the United States.
But Border Patrol agents with knowledge of the man's apprehension told TheBlaze the case illustrates a major problem: There are no real protocols in place to handle people at the border coming from nations dealing with Ebola or outbreaks of other infectious diseases.
Albert Spratte, a Border Patrol agent and union representative with the National Border Patrol Council Local 3307 in the Rio Grande Valley sector, said there is enormous concern among agents about the lack of information and education regarding the Ebola crisis.
“We just don't have the training to respond,” Spratte told TheBlaze. “I got messages from guys who were scared because a guy from Africa had been apprehended and he was being brought into the station. These agents said that they were not being told what was going on.”
“We saw how long it took DHS and HHS to respond to the scabies and other health issues,” Spratte said. “Did they train up or come up with a plan to respond to this? I don’t know.”
The Obama administration on Wednesday announced plans to expand Ebola screenings of incoming passengers to five major U.S. airports. There have been no similar measures taken on the southern border, which has Border Patrol agents on edge.
“Part of dealing with the Ebola or communicable diseases is information, and we on the ground level are not getting any,” Spratte said.
[sharequote align="center"]"We simply are not equipped to handle it."[/sharequote]
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) told TheBlaze it's another instance of the federal government ignoring the ongoing problems on the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Foreign nationals from all over the world know that the way to enter the U.S. illegally is through the southern border. DHS' own figures support that fact. But they won't discuss those figures, because they show just how vulnerable the border truly is,” Hunter said.
For Border Patrol agents, Wednesday night’s incident serves as a clear warning that they could soon be in real danger.
"I can’t imagine what will happen when we get a real case of Ebola,” Spratte said. “We simply are not equipped to handle it. I have had to talk to my wife that if something weird happens at work, I may need to stay away from the house for weeks instead of risking the spread of something at home. DHS or CBP needs to do more to inform both the agents and the public.”
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