Group of Migrants along Border Found to be Sick with Mumps
LAREDO – A group of migrants along the southern border were found to be sick with the mumps.
The cases were discovered near the Laredo border.
According to local health officials, it was years ago since they last saw cases like this at a detention center.
Nine confirmed cases were detected in December at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility there.
Thousands of migrants cross through Laredo's ports of entry; Border Patrol reports 3,449 were encountered there since October.
Dr. Hector Gonzalez, Laredo Health Department Director says, "There's an international community of the entire border. So, people from all over cross, legally and illegally, every day."
Those who come in illegally are processed by Border Patrol and turned over to ICE; some get placed in detention centers.
The City of Laredo Health Department was called in to the GEO detention center in Laredo.
Health screenings often reveal trends, explains Dr. Gonzalez.
"We usually see one to two cases per year of tuberculosis, but we haven't seen mumps in years."
Nine migrants, mostly Central American and Mexican according to Dr. Gonzalez, have mumps.
It's something you can catch when you sneeze, so it can spread easily.
In a statement provided by ICE, it stated they "quarantine everyone who may have been inadvertently exposed to stop the spread of the disease."
It also stated migrants normally get medical screening, a virus they were exposed to prior to the detention center stay could be harder to detect until symptoms became visible.
Dr. Gonzalez said some people at the facility were vaccinated against the disease after the discovery was made.
Both local governments along the Laredo/Nuevo Laredo border are monitoring the situation.
Jose Martin Carmona Flores, Director of the Tamaulipas Institute for Migrants, said they offer migrants at their shelters several services.
"Before anything else, we check their health. Then come the other services of shelter, food, clothing, etc.," Carmona Flores explained.
The Tamaulipas Institute for Migrants and Dr. Gonzalez communicate to keep track of the hundreds currently waiting to cross through the Laredo border.
Dr. Gonzalez explains having international citizens in his city means health officials must foster a global awareness.
"One of the things is we see people coming from other parts of the world, especially the Congo, from Africa, and we want to make sure there's no exposure to Yellow Fever, Malaria. The Congo is having an outbreak of Ebola, but they're vaccinating everyone so, yes. We monitor very closely."
Dr. Gonzalez said a group of about 150 migrant from Del Rio were released by ICE to the Laredo bus station this week.
Two children were suspected of mumps; both were cleared.
CHANNEL FIVE NEWS also reached out to Border Patrol about what precautions they are taking to quarantine and protect migrants and agents. Border Patrol refused to provide comment.
ICE sent the following statement:
As of 12 p.m. on Feb. 8, there are currently 9ICE detainees who have tested positive for the mumps within the Laredo area.
With the recent influx of migrants entering the U.S. from the southern border, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) occasionally encounters and treats aliens with mumps who are housed at ICE detention facilities.
Medical personnel are credited with reducing the further infection of detainees by their quick reaction to quarantine everyone who may have been inadvertently exposed to stop the spread of the disease.
Each detainee receives a medical examination upon arrival at the facility to check for potential signs of illness; however ICE has no way of knowing what viruses a person may have been exposed to prior to entering the facility.
Varicella is highly contagious, easily contracted by nearby people and difficult to detect until visible symptoms appear.
ICE and the medical professionals employed by GEO took the necessary steps to quickly isolate the exposed detainees, provide proper medical care and prevent further spread of the disease.
Preventative steps included education, early recognition, and following the guidelines established by the CDC and Immigration Health Services Corps (IHSC).
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.
For more information watch the video above.