Immigration workers blamed for Arizona measles outbreak

Arizona health officials say that the current biggest outbreak of measles in the United States is due partly to several individuals who refused to be vaccinated while working at a federal immigration detention center. No less than 22 cases of measles have been confirmed in Arizona since May. These all stem from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Eloy detention center facility, which is managed by the private company, Corrections Corporation of America.

Thomas Schryer, the health director of Pinal County, says the outbreak most likely started with an immigrant but that all detainees have now been vaccinated against the disease. Unfortunately, though, convincing employees to either show evidence of immunity or to receive vaccinations themselves has proven more difficult. They are then going out into the community and passing on the disease.

There are around 350 CCA staff members in the facility, as well as an unknown number of ICE workers, which approximates to around 100, according to Schryer. Staffing levels at ICE are not publically released, and employees are also not required to be immunized. There are presently over 1200 immigrant detainees held at the facility.

ICE spokeswoman Yvonne Pitts O’Keefe says they are working with health officials to monitor both employees and detainees alike and that several measures have been implemented to stop the disease from spreading further. These include the handing out of pamphlets and flyers, referring staff members to clinics and providing immunizations.