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Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke April 10, 2019

No, this isn’t a photograph of an immigrant with smallpox

An old photo that has been used to stoke fears about migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border is again being misused.

"I told you they’re bringing diseases into our country that we eradicated!" reads the post accompanying a photo published on Facebook on April 3. "The bumps on this illegal’s body is Smallpox!"

The photo shows a man without his shirt on and his arm raised. Red bumps appear to cover his flank and other sections of his torso.

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.) That’s because the photo is from 2014 and shows a migrant suffering from scabies.

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As we noted in a November fact-check that claimed the photo shows "diseases coming across the border," U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar shared the original image with the Houston Chronicle that year. He also shared other photos that showed cramped and unsanitary conditions in a Customs and Border Protections facility in South Texas.

The photo that continues to be shared on Facebook shows a man with scabies, a treatable skin condition that can spread rapidly under crowded conditions. That particular outbreak was largely contained to migrants living in close quarters in detention centers, though a small handful of border patrol agents appeared to have contracted it.

There is some evidence that diseases cross the border, but the Centers for Disease Control attributes that spread to legal crossings between the United States and Mexico, not illegal immigration.

We rate this Facebook post as Pants on Fire.

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Pants on Fire
A photograph shows an undocumented immigrant with smallpox.
Wednesday, April 3, 2019

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No, this isn’t a photograph of an immigrant with smallpox

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