Mumps outbreak at detention center

Published 7:11 pm Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Five staff members and 17 of those detained at the Farmville Detention Center, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility at 508 Waterworks Road, were reported with confirmed cases of mumps.

VDH Piedmont Health District Director Dr. Robert Nash confirmed the numbers Monday morning. The VDH vaccinated 145 staff members last Wednesday.

Nash said that the staff members who are ill are isolated to their homes.

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“Generally we recommend that they stay at home for five days after their symptoms resolve,” Nash said, which could take as long as 12-18 days.

Nash said that 684 detainees were in the process of being vaccinated with the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine on Monday.

Nash said that there are still staff members who have not yet received the MMR vaccine, being unable to visit the immunization center at the detention center last Wednesday. Nash said those staff members are making appointments to get immunization from their local health departments.

Nash said the VDH issued vaccines to the Farmville Detention site and a training center off-campus simultaneously.

Carissa Cutrell, spokesperson with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) confirmed Thursday of the initial outbreak, which included 16 confirmed or suspected cases of mumps. “ICE detainees in a detention facility are cohorted (separated from the general population) if they were exposed to someone with confirmed, probable or suspected mumps. This practice continues for 25 days after the most recent exposure is found.”

Cutrell said that the ICE Health Service Corps and the Farmville Detention Center medical staff are working closely with the Virginia Department of Health to prevent the infection from spreading.

“Visitation at the facility has been canceled until further notice, and the facility is not taking in any new detainees,” Cutrell said.

An ICE official cited that those detained at staff are not required to be immunized prior to being employed with the Farmville Detention Center.

The Farmville Detention Center detainees do not receive vaccinations when they enter the facility.

Farmville Detention Center staff and medical care providers are wearing protective equipment when they interact with detainees, and the Virginia Department of Health is available to administer the MMR vaccine to staff members who request it, according to ICE personnel.


Mumps is a virus in which common signs and symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, and swelling and tenderness of one or more salivary glands under the ears or jaw on one or both sides of the face (parotitis).

Symptoms of mumps usually appear 16 to 18 days after exposure, but may appear any time within 12 to 25 days after exposure, according to documentation from the Virginia Department of Health. Mumps is contagious from two days before until five days after the onset of swelling.

Mumps is spread by droplets of saliva or mucus from the mouth, nose, or throat of an infected person, usually when a person coughs or sneezes. Mumps can also spread when items used by an infected person that have been contaminated by saliva or mucus, such as eating utensils, drinks, or lip balm are shared, according to the VDH.

Symptoms of mumps usually appear 16 to 18 days after exposure, but may appear any time within 12 to 25 days after exposure, according to the VDH. Mumps is contagious from two days before until five days after the onset of swelling.

While complications from mumps can be rare, they can appear and be more common in people who have reached puberty.

Complications include central nervous system disorders such as encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and meningitis (inflammation of the covering of the brain and spinal column), miscarriage of a pregnancy, arthritis, pancreatic involvement, or deafness, according to the VDH.

Immunization is cited as one of the best solutions to prevent outbreaks or cases of mumps.

Two doses of the MMR vaccine are recommended for all children.

The first dose of MMR should be given at 12-15 months of age and the second dose before a child enters kindergarten (4-6 years of age), according to the VDH.

Those uncertain about their vaccination history, or whether they have had the disease, are encouraged to be vaccinated.

There has been public discussion about one belief in particular of a reported correlation between the MMR vaccine and autism.

This correlation is believed to have originated from a study published in 1999 by Andrew Wakefield in the peer-reviewed journal, “The Lancet,” which explored a possible correlation between the vaccine and autism.

Wakefield was convicted of falsifying the data within the study and later was stripped of his medical license, according to VDH Senior Epidemiologist Rhonda Pruitt in a past Herald report.

The VDH encourages people to call the area health department for questions about the vaccine. The Piedmont VDH office, located in Farmville, can be reached at (434) 392-3984.

‘Raise a lot of issues’

The detainees released from the center, according to ICE, receive specific instructions about mumps and infection control measures prior to leaving the facility, and the VDH follows up with them once they are released.

Nash said often, those detained have contact information or an address, and that the VDH will follow up once the person leaves the facility. However, if the person does not have an address, that makes it a challenge for both the VDH or ICE to follow the person’s whereabouts.

“They don’t have an address to give, they don’t have a phone number to give,” Nash said. “It’s kind of hard to track them.”

Currently, the center is only releasing detainees it is legally unable to hold, the ICE official cited.

The $21-million Farmville Detention Center facility was built in Farmville in 2010.

The registered agent of Immigration Centers of America-Farmville LLC is Russell Harper, managing member of Harper Associates, LLC based in Richmond.

The Town of Farmville receives $1 a day for each person detained at the facility, and receives a tax base.

The town confirmed that only men are currently held at the facility. There are no women or children.

The facility has the capacity for 650 people, according to Town Manager Gerald Spates in a past Herald report, but the exact amount of people in the facility fluctuates from day to day.

Matt Muggeridge, an immigration lawyer based in Fredericksburg, said he had a client in the Farmville Detention Center who had a bond hearing at an immigration court in Arlington. When the person is held at the immigration centers in Farmville or Caroline County, the hearing is performed via video.

Muggeridge said the client was the last client scheduled on May 30 because the client was quarantined.

Muggeridge said when his client appeared on the video, he was wearing a mask.

He said Judge Raphael Choi granted Muggeridge’s client the bond. There was no discussion of the face mask or the schedule delay during the hearing, Muggeridge said.

The judge asked that day what was going on. Officials said the quarantine in question was due to mumps.

Muggeridge said he was later forwarded an email from ICE confirming that in-person visits to the Farmville center have been suspended indefinitely until the center can control the mumps outbreak. 

Muggeridge asked about the health measures taken for someone released on bond.

He said the question typically asked about someone at an ICE center is whether he or she is a danger or has a criminal history, not that he or she has a contagious illness.

“It does raise a lot of issues,” Muggeridge said.