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By Kyra Haas November 6, 2018

Dated photo used to make false claim about migrants, disease

A 2014 photo of a man with a rash has been dredged up and re-posted on Facebook by a group that claims numerous diseases are coming across the border into the United States.

But the accompanying photo is four years old.

This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar shared the original photo with the Houston Chronicle in 2014, along with a series of other images that showed cramped and unsanitary conditions in a Customs and Border Protection facility in South Texas.

The claim that immigrants bring infectious diseases isn’t new. We’ve fact-checked a couple iterations of the claim over the years.

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In 2014, a congressman said migrants may be bringing the Ebola virus across the U.S.-Mexico border. We rated that Pants on Fire.

In 2015, Donald Trump said, "Tremendous infectious disease is pouring across the border." At the time, the health experts we spoke with agreed that there was no evidence of massive influx of infections across the border.

Most recently, other posts have gone viral about the migrants in the caravan heading toward the U.S.-Mexico border supposedly bringing diseases. There are no known reports of this being the case, according to The New York Times.

The photo in the Facebook post is from a particular outbreak of scabies in 2014. Scabies is a treatable skin condition, but it can spread rapidly under crowded conditions. That outbreak was largely contained to migrants living in close quarters in detention centers. Only a small handful of border patrol agents appear to have contracted it.

There is some evidence that diseases cross between the U.S.-Mexico border, but the Center for Disease Control attributes spread of disease in that region not to illegal immigration but to legal back-and-forth between the United States and Mexico.

Our ruling

There is no evidence that undocumented immigrants to the U.S. are carrying deadly diseases. Spread of disease is more likely from the much larger numbers of legal crossing across the border and the number of international travelers visiting other countries and then returning to the United States. We rate this claim False.

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PolitiFact rating logo PolitiFact Rating:
Says photo of man shows "diseases coming across the border."
in a Facebook post
Friday, November 2, 2018

Our Sources

Facebook post, Montgomery County Citizens Against Illegal Immigration, Nov. 2, 2018

Houston Chronicle, "Photos show logjam of immigrants detained at government facility," June 11, 2014

PolitiFact, "Rep. Phil Gingrey says migrants may be bringing Ebola virus through the U.S.-Mexico border," July 18, 2014

Snopes, "Does Immigration Across the Southern U.S. Border Pose a Health Risk to American Children?," Nov. 5, 2018

PolitiFact, "Are illegal immigrants bringing ‘tremendous’ disease across the border, as Trump says? Unlikely," July 23, 2015

The New York Times, "Debunking 5 viral images of the migrant caravan," Oct. 24, 2018

Center for Disease Control, "Scabies Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)," accessed Nov. 4, 2018

Center for Disease Control, "U.S. – Mexico Cross-Border Health," accessed Nov. 4, 2018

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Dated photo used to make false claim about migrants, disease

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