WASHINGTON, June 15, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – US authorities said Friday they had
placed 5,200 detained migrants into quarantine, mainly over exposure to
mumps, linking a surge in cases to a recent outbreak of the contagious
disease in Central America.
An Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) official told AFP that as of
June 13 almost 4,300 detainees were being confined across 39 facilities for
exposure to mumps, more than 800 for exposure to chicken pox, and about a
hundred for both.
The first confirmed case of mumps among ICE detainees was reported on
September 7, 2018 and since then the figure has grown to 334, the official
Nathalie Asher, ICE’s executive associate director of enforcement and
removal operations, said that 75 percent of the current detention population
came directly from the border, while the others were detained within the US.
Given this, and recent outbreaks of mumps in Central America, “the
preponderance of evidence points to the major influx at our Southwest border
being, at minimum, a significant contributing factor of these occurrences,”
“The impact is significant in the short and long term,” she said, including
longer detentions and delayed removals.
The number in quarantine represent about a tenth of the approximately
52,000 ICE detainees overall.
The agency was giving exposed asymptomatic detainees measles, mumps, and
rubella (MMR) vaccines and quarantining them for 25 days from the last
incubation period, it said.
Mumps is a contagious disease with symptoms such as puffy cheeks and a
tender, swollen jaw as well as fever, muscle aches and loss of appetite.
Most people make a full recovery within two weeks but in rare cases there
can be severe complications.
The US has been experiencing its own sporadic mumps outbreaks in the past
several years, which scientists believe might be linked to the vaccine’s
waning immunity over time and the need for a booster shot at the age of 18.
Cases fell dramatically after the two-MMR dose program was introduced in
1989, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with
only a few hundred reported annually for several years thereafter.
But they have been on the rise again since 2006, with more than 6,000 cases
in 2006, 2016 and 2017.
There have been 1,002 cases reported this year from January 1 to May 24.