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Mumps Outbreak Grows at ICE Detention Facility in Virginia




An outbreak of mumps at an immigration detention center in Virginia is growing. Authorities say there are now 24 confirmed or suspected cases at the Farmville facility. That’s up from 16 cases last week. Immigrant advocates say it’s part of a larger problem.


Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg is with the Legal Aid Justice Center. He says the facility in Farmville isn’t alone in dealing with infectious disease. There has been an increase in cases of chickenpox and mumps at ICE detention centers across the country, as more immigrants are detained and space gets crowded.

“It’s not surprising that when you have people stacked on top of each other like sardines, when an outbreak does start it’s going to rip through one of these facilities like wildfire,” predicts Sandoval-Moshenberg.

A spokesperson for ICE says they’re working closely with state health officials to prevent the spread of the virus and provide care.

Mumps causes headaches and fever, as well as swollen salivary glands. It can be prevented with a vaccine. While most people recover in a couple weeks, occasionally there are more serious complications from the disease.

In Farmville, visitation at the facility has been cancelled. Sandoval-Moshenberg says that’s harmful to detainees, many of whom have children here in the U.S.

“Not just to the morale of the people inside, but also to the kids at the last minute who might have been expecting to see their fathers the week before Father’s day and now are being told ‘Sorry you can’t and we don’t know when you’re going to be able to do that again.’,” he says.

Immigrant advocates say ICE should stop detaining people who have minimal, or even no criminal records. That would prevent health risks and save taxpayer dollars.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Mallory Noe-Payne is a Radio IQ reporter based in Richmond.