Nearly 900 migrants caught mumps in detention centers last year


In this photo provided by the Office of the Inspector General, the OIG notes the overpopulation of families at the Weslaco US border patrol station on June 11, 2019 in Weslaco, Texas. Office of the Inspector General / Department of Homeland Security via Getty Images)

Office of the Inspector General | Department of Homeland Security | Getty Images

Nearly 900 migrants detained in the United States have contracted mumps in detention centers over the past year, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Thursday.

From September 1, 2018 to August 22, 2019, the United States reported 899 confirmed and possible adult mumps cases in 57 detention centers. Another 33 staff members also contracted the preventable virus. This is the first time that an outbreak of mumps has been reported in detention centers, the CDC said.

Eighty-four percent of infected patients were exposed to mumps while in US facilities, the CDC reported. Only 5% were exposed before being apprehended, the organization added.

"This outbreak of mumps is actually only a red flag that shows that these facilities pose a risk of spreading a number of infectious diseases," said Professor Jeffrey Duchin , professor at the University of Washington.

The United States has seen the influx of people cross the southern border over the past year, seeking relief from their home country. From October to July, nearly 259,000 single adults and 433,000 "family units" were apprehended at the southwestern border, resulting in overcrowded facilities.

Mumps is a highly contagious, but not often fatal, airborne virus. It can usually be prevented with two doses of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine. According to CDC guidelines, public health officials should recommend a third dose of the vaccine to groups of people in close contact with an infected or at-risk person.

US immigration and customs authorities did not immediately respond to a request for comment on vaccination rates and screening processes. The CDC indicated in its report that vaccination efforts differed among institutions.

"It is much easier, more important, and less expensive to prevent these diseases than to respond to them," said Duchin, a board member of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. "Prevention of these diseases is important not only to help protect the health of detainees, but also for the staff and surrounding communities."

The outbreak comes as politicians and health care providers urge the Trump administration to better prepare for outbreaks of infectious diseases in border camps.

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