A debunked rumor stemming from a 2015 article from the conservative website Breitbart.com which claimed that Syrian refugees are introducing “flesh-eating diseases” as they migrate into the US, is making the rounds on the Internet again.
The article last December, titled, “EXCLUSIVE – Syrian Refugees Bringing Flesh-Eating Disease into U.S.?” in which it asserted that the “U.S. Could be infected with a flesh-eating disease that is sweeping across Syria,” is finding its way into the anti-Muslim blogosphere, with other sites building upon the unsubstantiated claim.
According to Snopes, the website Patriot Crier also wrote that along with the “extremist beliefs and ideologies” being brought into the United States, apparently the “diseases” they bring in are more concerning.
“Health agencies confirmed that Syrian refugees have transported leishmaniasis to Lebanon and Turkey, where it has been difficult to manage and treat.
Refugees who enter the U.S. must undergo medical screening according to protocols established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC. Each refugee must submit to a physical examination, including a skin test and possibly a chest x-ray to check for tuberculosis, as well as a blood test for syphilis.
The blood tests do not currently look for leishmaniasis. Clearly, an attending doctor could easily spot a patient with obvious skin ulcers. However, leishmans cannot be detected upon physical examination if the patient is asymptomatic, as can be the case for years.”
Leishmaniasis, which is defined by the CDC as a parasitic disease that commonly cause skin sores, is a rarity in the US.
— Lee Jackson (@Stonewall_77) December 21, 2015
Almost all of the cases of leishmaniasis diagnosed in the United States are in people who became infected while traveling or living in other countries. Occasional cases of cutaneous leishmaniasis have been acquired in Texas and Oklahoma. No cases of visceral leishmaniasis are known to have been acquired in the United States.
The main way is through the bite of infected female phlebotomine sand flies. Sand flies become infected by sucking blood from an infected animal or person. Some types (species) of Leishmania parasites also may be spread via contaminated needles (needle sharing) or blood transfusions. Congenital transmission (spread from a pregnant woman to her baby) has been reported.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the manner of transmission is overwhelmingly insect-to-human, but occurs in the United States “but again, it is rare due to the U.S.’s climate and its generally low-risk population.”
In short, these “foreigners carrying disease” cannot transmit leishmaniasis to Americans, but only in the rarest circumstances.