A detainee at a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility in Chase County, Kansas, has tested positive for mumps, and 22 other migrants may have been exposed.
ICE discovered the detainee with the mumps on June 18, then identified the others who came into contact with that person, said Shawn A. Neudauer, an ICE public affairs officer.
The 22 other detainees are not sick but have been “cohorted,” or separated from the general population, and will remain there until July 16, he said.
Mumps is a contagious disease that is caused by a virus and is preventable with a vaccine. It causes puffy cheeks, a swollen jaw, fever, headache and muscle aches and can last up to 25 days after infection.
Neudauer said the detainee with mumps is the single case in the Midwestern region that he covers, which includes Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri. He said it is an isolated incident and not connected to a national problem announced last month that forced ICE to quarantine 5,200 migrants at 39 detention facilities.
“The simple fact is that some countries have more challenges than the U.S. in working to stamp out illnesses like mumps, so when individuals from other countries arrive we check everyone within 24 hours,” Neudauer said.
Kansas City immigration attorney Rekha Sharma-Crawford, whose firm represents a person who was exposed to the mumps, said this case is a symptom of a larger problem within ICE.
“The greater problem is that you have people who are being incarcerated for a civil violation who are not getting adequate food, who are not getting adequate water, who are not getting adequate medical care,” she said.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment confirmed a single case of the mumps at the facility, but said that no other person has symptoms of the illness so it is not considered an outbreak.
Around 100 people are in ICE custody in Chase County, Neudauer said, and most are from Mexico or Central America.
A National Institutes of Health study in 2018 showed that vaccinations against the mumps virus "is routinely performed in more than 120 countries," though "outbreaks have occurred after starting vaccination, even in highly vaccinated populations."
Peggy Lowe is a reporter at KCUR 89.3 and is on Twitter at @peggyllowe.
Celia Llopis-Jepsen of the Kansas News Service contributed to this report.