US immigration detention centres see nearly 1,000 cases of mumps this year, new report says

Disease is easily communicated in close environments and causes swelling, headaches, and fever

Clark Mindock
New York
Saturday 31 August 2019 15:29 BST
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An image showing crowding at a Border Patrol facility
An image showing crowding at a Border Patrol facility

There have been at least 931 cases of mumps in American immigration facilities, which officials say present “a perfect storm” for the spread of disease.

The outbreaks at US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities were detailed in a new report by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, which indicated the outbreak has affected both detainees and staff.

It is the latest report to indicate poor conditions in the facilities, after a June report by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general found horrible conditions at the centres, with immigrants packed in standing room-only areas with limited access to baths.

“These detention centres are a perfect storm for mumps to spread. Individuals have to be within three to six feet of each other to spread this virus. Sneezing, coughing on someone, or sharing a drink can spread the virus,” Dr Todd Ellerin, the director of infectious diseases and vice chair of medicine at Southshore Health in Massachusetts, told ABC News.

But it is unclear how the situation may be turned around, with CBP officials saying that they do not believe immunisation is appropriate for detainees since the facilities are designed for short stays.

Immunisations, according to the CDC, are the most effective way of preventing mumps.

“In general, due to the short-term nature of CBP holding and the complexities of operating vaccination programmes, neither CBP nor its medical contractors administer vaccinations to those in custody,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

ICE, a spokesperson said, will administer flu vaccines, alongside other vaccines, when requested.

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Mumps is a viral infection that causes headache, fever, muscle aches, and swollen cheeks, according to Mayo Clinic. The symptoms can cause pain while chewing or swallowing, and around 80 to 90 per cent of individuals who are not immunised.

In the first half of this year, the CDC says there were around 1,799 cases of mumps across 45 states in the US, plus the District of Columbia.

Vaccines for the virus have been given since 1967, when there were 186,000 cases annually reported.

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