Over the centuries measures were taken in many ways to prevent international disease spread. It was regular for arriving ships to be quarantined and infected persons isolated or interned on islands or hulks. Indeed specific signaling flags (still in naval inventory) were designed to indicate disease on board, or that the ship was in quarantine. In some Canadian provinces it was obligatory to have a health check, including a check for venereal diseases, before a marriage license was issued.
This concern about introducing infection in the Western World from the tropics was one reason for the London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene opening in 1899.
Then came the age of arrogance. Popular opinion and therefore political opinion began to believe that it was within human power to control and abolish disease. The gates of nations were opened for those wonderful bounties, “cheap labour”, “the tourist dollar” and that extraordinary unregulated cult of self-gratifying righteousness “asylum granters”.
But health care professionals held a different view, which politicians – too ignorant or arrogant to adopt – instead ignored. Scientists had striven to develop new antibiotics to beat mutating bacteria for decades. But they are no longer succeeding. MRSA Staphylococcus aureus, now resistant to antibiotics, kills tens of thousands a year. Multiple drug resistant tuberculosis, inevitably fatal, now races through the world. Get it and you die.
Now there is a new "super super bug" the New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase (NDM-1). The chilling aspect is that the resistant qualities of this organism can be transmitted by plasmids to other bacteria, changing many other types, once common and minimally dangerous, into resistant pathogens.
There is little pharmaceutical hope for the future: In 1990 there were nearly 20 top drug companies developing new antibiotics. Today, only two large companies, AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline, still have strong antibiotic research and development programs. The rest have been driven out of business by high taxes, third world patient demands for their “rights” to be supplied at cost with drugs (supported by politicians anxious to keep the poor vote, yet unconcerned by the long term damage) and the medical litigation industry – again in it for selfish short-term gain. The necessary science is also more expensive and more difficult; investment is lessening. Politics is killing yet another of its Golden Gooses.
Why should it be no surprise that this pathogen evolved in India? Given the rampant poor hygiene, and widespread availability of blind sell-medication by over-the-counter antibiotics in Asia, Africa and Latin America, this outcome was inevitable. Even though their use is controlled in the West, “know all” patients often pressure doctors into indiscriminate antibiotic use
Why should it be no surprise that Europeans are increasingly afflicted? Migrants from the third world arrive in droves illegally. Even when they are medically screened this is mostly superficial and ineffective. Most of these migrants are “economic refugees” from derelict economies, which have inferior health services. Indeed the diseased have particular motivation to get into Europe, and capitalize on the health systems. The commonest language heard at King’s College Hospital, I was told recently, is Yoruba, associated with a “health visitor” scam.
Others from insalubrious back grounds are brought in as relatives, brides and beneficiaries of asylum goody-two-shoesism. Give a thought to all those poor innocent New Zealand girls now carrying forever the curse of HIV because their government allowed into New Zealand many untested Zimbabwean HIV+ “refugee” stallions (Even supposing these people were threatened they had only to walk across the unregulated border into South Africa or adjacent states to protect themselves.)
What about tourists? Naturally there are risks from both incoming and outgoing tourists but it is far less than that from immigrants who stay longer. Incoming tourists (at any rate those who are desirable) usually come from secure, healthy backgrounds if they are able to afford touring. If they are ill they are most likely to remain at home.
Britain must also remain alert to the out-going sex tourist. Those close to them must be made aware and prepared to acknowledge that these might be infected and infested, and guard themselves and their country. These people could be seen in the same category as pedophiles and rapists – a danger to the nation.
Leaving all else aside there are the strongest possible health reasons for severely restricting immigration into what should be the well protected British archipelago.