U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has reported seeing a dramatic increase in the number of immigrants exposed to highly-contagious viral infections. According to CNN, ICE has quarantined 5,200 immigrants for mumps or chickenpox exposure after confirmed cases of the diseases were reported at 39 different immigration detention centers.
According to The Hill, ICE claimed 4,276 detained immigrants were placed in quarantine following exposure to mumps, while another 825 have been quarantined due to exposure to chickenpox. At least 99 detained immigrants are believed to have been exposed to both viral infections. Bustle has reached out to ICE for comment.
According to CNN, blood tests confirmed that 297 people held nationwide in ICE custody came down with the mumps from September 2018 through to June 13. While the agency has seen cases of contagious diseases like the flu, measles, and even chickenpox before, September was reportedly the first time ICE had recorded any confirmed cases of mumps in its shelters. The initial source of the disease and how it spread remains unknown, the cable news network reported.
In a statement to CNN, an ICE official said the exposures and subsequent quarantine would have a number of consequences for detainees. “From an operational perspective, the impact is significant in the short and long term and will result in an increase in cohorted detainees’ length of stay in detention, an inability to effect removal of eligible cohorted detainees, and postponing scheduled consular interviews for quarantined detainees,” the news outlet reported Nathalie Asher, executive associate director for ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), said.
Quartz has reported that quarantined immigrants in ICE custody can face barriers in accessing or communicating with their attorneys and attending immigration court proceedings that can ultimately lead to the length of their detention being increased or “a denial of the rights U.S. law guarantees asylum seekers.”
According to Reuters, ICE first reported having quarantined a number of adult immigrants in March, after it identified roughly 236 “confirmed or probable cases of mumps” in 51 facilities. At that time, an ICE spokesperson told the news outlet that 2,287 immigrants in ICE custody had been placed in quarantine over exposure concerns.
Although exposure rates appear to have increased in recent months, Asher appeared confident that the agency would be able to manage the spread of the disease. “I think there is heightened interest in this situation because it’s the mumps, which is a new occurrence in custody, but preventing the spread of communicable disease in ICE custody is something we have demonstrated success doing,” CNN reported Asher said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an outbreak of mumps can commonly occur among individuals who maintain “prolonged, close contact,” such as “living in close quarters,” with someone who has the disease. Symptoms typically include fever, headache, muscle aches, and swelling in the salivary glands and appear roughly 12 to 25 days after infection, the CDC reports. As a result, ICE is reportedly keeping any individual thought to have been exposed to the disease in quarantine for 25 days from the last incubation period, CNN has reported.