Health officials in Arizona are attributing the largest measles outbreak currently in the United States to the some workers at the federal immigration detention center refusing to get vaccinated.
The L.A. Times reports that 22 measles cases have been confirmed in the state of Arizona since the end of May. The outbreaks originated from the Eloy Detention center, which is an Immigration and Customs facility that’s managed by the private Corrections Corp of America.
Health director Thomas Schryer of Pinal County thinks the outbreak may have started with a migrant, however all detainees have now been vaccinated. According to Schryer it’s been difficult to get employees to not only get vaccinated but also provide proof.
‘And so they’re actually the ones that are passing along the measles among each other and then going out into the community.’
The Eloy Detention Center has more than 1,200 detainees, roughly 350 CCA employees, and is estimated to have about 100 ICE staffers. A major part of the problem is that ICE does not require employees to be immunized.
An ICE spokeswoman named Yasmeen Pitts O’Keef has said her agency is working side by side with health officials, monitoring detainees and employees. She also said that ICE is using a few different measures to prevent the spread of the disease, including giving immunizations, providing masks and gloves, referring employees to clinics, and handing out literature on the dangers of catching measles.
The CCA, a corporation that is based in Tennessee, says that the majority of it’s staff have either shown proof of immunity or been vaccinated and that those who have not have been required to wear surgical masks.
Cara Christ, Director of Arizona Department of Health Services, says that the detention center has recently been more responsive and that most of the employees got immunized last week.
‘Once they understood how important it is and the outcomes it can have one the community, they tend to cooperate. So we hope to get a cooperative response from ICE.’
Measles was completely eradicated in the U.S. in 2000. It’s an extremely contagious and also preventable with vaccines. The majority of the cases that have cropped up in the last few years have been due to people choosing not to have their children and infants vaccinated because of false information being spread. In some of the false reports people have suggested that it can cause autism. The symptoms of measles are generally mild, but can be deadly to infants, who are too young to be vaccinated against it.
There was an outbreak that happened at Disneyland in California last year and then spread subsequently to many other states across the U.S. because of the parents who refused to vaccinate their children.
According to Schryer some officials have considered asking the Arizona governor to declare a state of emergency but Christ insists that may not be necessary.
Health officials in Arizona are doing their best, providing free vaccines, sending doctors to the detention center, and educating their many staffers to assure that the disease is contained and unable to spread further.
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