Mumps Outbreak Hits Nearly 200 People at Texas Immigration Detention Centers

Nearly 200 people at immigration detention centers in Texas have come down with the mumps since last October, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

The department told Newsweek that there had been at least 186 mumps cases diagnosed in federal immigration-related facilities in Texas since October.

The vast majority of cases had affected detainees, but the department said five facility workers had also fallen ill with the virus.

In a statement emailed to Newsweek, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesperson Carl Rusnok said that ICE had seen just 27 mumps cases at its facilities in Texas as of February 14 last month, but he said that by now, "there are likely many fewer cases of mumps today."

"Those 27 cases were from a total ICE detainee population of about 16,500," he added.

Rusnok said that the 186 number of cases "seems to include other detention facilities than just ICE, such as U.S. Marshals and the Office of Refugees and Resettlement (ORR)."

"So, the total 186 cases could be comparing apples to oranges. However, I cannot account for another agency's stats," he said.

Mumps is a contagious disease caused by the paramyxovirus. While it is preventable with the MMR (mumps, measles and rubella) vaccine, which has a 97 percent effective rate, without the vaccine the virus can spread easily.

Symptoms include headaches, muscle aches, fatigue, loss of appetite and the characteristic swelling of salivary glands. In rare cases, the virus can cause heart problems, as well as possible pregnancy complications.

The reported mumps outbreak came as doctors working at the border warned that migrants and asylum seekers arriving in the U.S. with injuries and health problems were not receiving adequate medical care.

"They're not treated as if their health and well-being is valued on any level," Dr. Anna Landau, a doctor who specializes in family medicine and volunteers at a migrant shelter run by Catholic Community Services in Tucson, Arizona, told The New York Times earlier this week.

Migrants and asylum seekers who make the often treacherous journey to the U.S.-Mexico border can experience dehydration and heat exhaustion, communicable diseases and injuries from climbing over barriers or from other incidents during the difficult trip. Others arrive in need of treatment for chronic diseases, such as diabetes or asthma.

According to The Times, some migrants described being left alone in concrete cells with broken bones, or after undergoing surgery without adequate pain medication.

"How do you send people who are clearly hurting, clearly in pain and suffering, how do you just move them through as if they're just another number, as opposed to an actual human being?" Landau asked.

This article has been updated with statements from the Texas Department of State Health Services and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

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A man sleeps in his "segregation cell" at the Adelanto immigration detention facility on November 15, 2013, in Adelanto, California. John Moore/Getty
Mumps Outbreak Hits Nearly 200 People at Texas Immigration Detention Centers | U.S.