While some risks to the welfare of those living along the U.S./Mexico border are obvious such as black-clad cartel members toting drugs and weapons, other serious threats remain microscopic, according to Dr. Gary Thrasher, a beloved veterinarian who works with ranchers on both sides of the border. Dr. Thrasher spoke at the recent “Calling Washington Home to the Border” event in Animas, New Mexico.
The event, sponsored by the New Mexico and Arizona Cattle Grower’s Associations, featured presentations from local land owners, business owners, and concerned citizens who live and work along the US/Mexico border. Thrasher addressed Animal Health and Border Relations.
Disease has the potential to run rampant through the Border States and north, according to Dr. Thrasher, because illegal aliens enter the country unchecked. Thrasher is concerned that if the human traffic is not monitored soon, many ranchers and their families will fall prey to these unseen threats.
Of course, as a veterinarian, Dr. Thrasher focused most of his address on the diseases that are putting the cattle along the border at risk, including the tuberculosis, foot and mouth disease, as well as something he calls “Oxxo poisoning.”
Thrasher, a soft-spoken and thoughtful man, discovered “Oxxo poisoning” after he conducted many necropsies on cattle that had ingested white plastic bags from the popular Mexican Oxxo convenience stores.
Thrasher reported on a disturbing tuberculosis trend. He stated that he has seen a kind of bovine pathogen of the virus that is “jumping from cattle, to humans, and then back to cattle.” He suspects that the disease may be commonly coming from the South Americans, who work in many dairies along the Border States.
Thrasher described an incident in El Paso where a group of dairy farms had to depopulate entire facilities because of an outbreak of tuberculosis. They would clean out the farms and let them sit idle for two or three years as required, and then bring all the cows and workers back in. However, the facilities would quickly experience more outbreaks and the depopulation process would be required again.
Thrasher, a very cautious and conscientious man, stated that when he initially investigated the outbreaks, he believed that the source was primarily the migrant workers in the farms. Over time, he came to the conclusion that it is not simply the migrants crossing the border, but the insects they carry with them, and the garbage they leave behind as they make their journey through the desert.
Thrasher, who lives along the border, addressed the subject as a doctor and grandfather. “The other thing that bothers me is that I take my grandkids out around the place. My grandkids pick up a backpack, someone’s underwear and they pick up bottles filled with medicine to treat tuberculosis, cholera. I tell them not to pick up that junk. Someone sick handled those bottles and they are exposing my grandkids to that.”
“Then they go look for the socks. Don’t look for the socks! Leave the socks,” said Thrasher adding a bit of levity to the sober discussion. “People laugh at that if you haven’t seen it,” Thrasher said to the laughing audience. “The socks are behind that bush, and that bush. The reason for that is because they use the socks for toilet paper. When you have this much traffic the danger is always there.”
The doctor is concerned, as are many other serious-minded professionals that the spread of disease is not happening by accident. He is concerned that those who might benefit from destroying the cattle in the United States, and ultimately the U.S. economy of the country are encouraging illegal traffic and the diseases it brings.
Thrasher explained that the first time he worked in Mexico to treat the spread of a disease was while he was in the Army. There was a Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis outbreak and the only organization that had the vaccine was the U.S Army. Thrasher claims that Mexico knew the disease was a threat then as it is now. Yet, the Mexican government has done nothing to end the threat. Thrasher believes that there are multiple diseases spreading in Mexico today that will a risk to the U.S. if nothing is done.
Thrasher prescribed a simple remedy: bring the Border Patrol agents back to the border – and bring them back on horseback now. When a patient ignores their doctor’s advice, they usually put only themselves at risk. If the federal government ignores Dr. Thrasher’s advice, it keeps us all at risk.
“Calling Washington Home to the Border” series: