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400 migrants detained in Arizona after mumps, chickenpox exposure

(AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

PHOENIX — Federal immigration authorities have quarantined more than 400 migrants in Arizona detention centers due to an exposure to two highly contagious diseases.

Yasmeen Pitts O’Keefe with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement told KTAR News 92.3 FM that 407 detainees in Arizona were isolated as of March 7.

The majority of the detainees — 345 — were separated after an exposure to mumps at La Palma Correctional Facility in Eloy.

Another 59 migrants were quarantined in the same facility due to a chickenpox exposure.

Three detainees were isolated at the Florence Detention Center in southeast Arizona after an exposure to chickenpox.

Arizona is not the only state where migrants are being detained: More than 2,200 people exposed to a mumps outbreak at facilities in Louisiana and Colorado were put under a 25-day quarantine.

A spokesman told The Associated Press that 236 detainees have had confirmed or probable cases of mumps in 51 facilities in the past year.

There were no reported cases between 2016 and 2018 at any ICE facilities.

The outbreak has renewed long-held concerns over access to medical care at immigration facilities, especially at a time when more immigrants who are crossing the border are being held and for longer periods of time.

There are nearly 47,000 immigrants currently detained around the country, according to an ICE spokesman.

Migrants in federal custody are medically screened within 24 hours after arriving at detention centers in order to mitigate the potential exposure of the diseases.

“ICE strives to ensure people in our care are treated with compassion and we work to get them back to health as quickly as possible while mitigating the spread of this and all diseases,” an agency spokesperson said in a statement.

Mumps is extremely rare, and infections have dropped off by 99 percent since vaccinations began in the late 1960s. It can spread quickly through coughing, sneezing or even talking.

A measles outbreak at an immigrant detention center at the Eloy Detention Center in 2016 contributed to a statewide outbreak after some employees refused to get vaccinated.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Ashley Flood and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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