GAO Audits Border, Port Disease Surveillance

HHS, DHS identify additional actions that need to be taken

November 20, 2008
by Anthony L. Kimery
Homeland Security Today

An estimated two billion people-one-third of the world's population-are infected with Mycobacterium (M.) tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes tuberculosis (TB), approximately nine million of whom have transmissible TB disease.

Concerns about infectious diseases monitoring were highlighted following the failure of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) authorities to catch a Mexican businessman from Juarez with TB who'd been criss-crossing the US/Mexican border in the spring of 2007.

GAO and authorities like the Trust for America's Health Executive Director, Dr. Jeffrey Levi, said better international disease surveillance and information-sharing is one of the keys to identifying, and quarantining if necessary, individuals with infectious diseases trying to enter the US. But on America's southern border, because of Mexico's deteriorated health care system and poor economy, especially in the rural border states, health authorities are less likely to have a handle on the identities of infectious disease carriers, much less persons they may have infected.

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