Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, commander of the U.S. Southern Command, predicted last week that the Ebola virus will not be contained in West Africa, and if infected people flee those countries and spread the disease to Central and South America, it could cause “mass migration into the United States” of those seeking treatment.
“If it breaks out, it’s literally, ‘Katie bar the door,’ and there will be mass migration into the United States,” Kelly said in remarks to the National Defense University on Tuesday. “They will run away from Ebola, or if they suspect they are infected, they will try to get to the United States for treatment.
“The potential spread of Ebola into Central and Southern America is a real possibility,” the article written about the general’s speech and posted on the Department of Defense website on Wednesday stated.
In his speech, Kelly cited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s prediction that 1.4 million people could be infected with Ebola by the end of the year, with 62 percent of those infected dying from the disease.
“That’s horrific,” Kelly said. “And there’s no way we can keep Ebola [contained] in West Africa.”
Kelly said the scenario of another widespread breakout is particularly possible if the disease reached countries like Guatemala, Honduras or El Salvador.
“It will cause panic, and people will flee the region,” Kelly said.
Kelly also spoke about the danger of transnational criminal networks smuggling people into the U.S. that could be infected with Ebola.
He spoke about his recent visit to the border of Costa Rica and Nicaragua with U.S. Embassy personnel where they saw men lined up waiting to enter Nicaragua.
“The embassy person walked over and asked who they were and they told him they were from Liberia and they had been on the road about a week,” Kelly continued. “They met up with the network in Trinidad, and now they were on their way to the United States — illegally, of course.”
Kelly said the men could make it all the way to New York City within the incubation period for Ebola of 21 days.
The D.O.D. article stated that Kelly was in “close contact” with his counterpart in the U.S. Africa Command.
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