When I spent part of summer there, it was Camp McCoy. July and August in Wisconsin can be humid on top of being hot. There were fields all around us. I was there as a doc, part of my annual time as a reservist. The reason my unit was there? The year was 1980 and we were dealing with another set of refugees – that time from Cuba.
Now why anyone would decide that Wisconsin – not near water, not near many Spanish speakers and certainly not a camp in great condition was a good place to temporarily house 10,000 male refuges is beyond me. Then, unlike now, there was a positive attitude toward the refugees and a definite dislike of Castro’s Cuban government much of which was regularly briefed by the earlier Cuban refugee population which. for the most part, had settled in Florida.
I was at Camp McCoy to provide medical care for the Military Police Battalion deployed from Kansas which was providing security for the site. In addition, we an an Air Borne reserve unit or so out of Chicago that came every supper to hang out and get in their jumps.
I am mentioning all of this because that summer our issue wasn’t measles (as is the problem with the current Afghan refugees) but rather STIs (sexually transmitted infections). By the time my unit (5501st USAH) showed up many of the other challenges had been overcome. The refugees were down to spoons, and plastic at that, due to the amount of violence (prisoner on prisoner – excuse me – refugee on refugee) that can be perpetrated by turning even plastic knives and forks into shivs. Most of the window no longer had glass for the same reason.
The US Public Health Service was providing the health care for the refugees. The two nurse practitioners were excellent as was the PA. Their supervising doc was out of his depth and apparently spent his time drunk in his bunk. That was the rumor. I never even met the man. End result is that of the four of us on our side (one pathologist, me, one PA, one NP) I became the go-to doc for everyone when a doc was needed due to clinic issue, emergency transport, medical issue, or common sense.
If I could deal with 10,000 men who kept passing around various STIs because of a stupid policy. Some [idiot] had decreed that treatment should be given only to those with positive penile cultures. The lab had been told not to process rectal cultures. Contact tracing was almost impossible. Solution? Literally butt loads of penicillin. I signed off the meds for the PA and NPs and they started aggressively treating anyone with a problem and all mentioned buddies. [Of note, besides those who wanted to leave, Castro also tossed out a lot of prisoners, mental health patients and every gay man that was identified. Which is how we would up with such an interesting collection of individuals. In August, in Wisconsin, during haying season. Did I mention a lot of steroid dependent asthmatics?)
Anyway I see no reason why we should be stopping the flow of refugees for measles. Yes there may be a few contagious individuals. So send a team to Ramstein Air Base with a load of MMR and solve the problem. Identify all contacts so far, isolate as you can. And realize that getting everyone to the US will ensure that health care will be provided to those who really get ill. Under the current conditions the transmission chain is going to keep going . There is a reason that most refugee camps run by MSF and other NGOs in low income countries provide measles vaccine to all children on entry to the camp. Wisconsin had decent immunization of children. And Ft McCoy? Out in the middle of nowhere.
It is not like we aren’t already dealing with SARS-COV2. Much rather deal with someone escaping from a war-torn country than someone who denies science while demanding medical care as their oxygen level tanks.