One detainee has contracted chickenpox at the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Facility, according to the Kern County Public Health Department, and officials at the detention center appear to be taking precautions to prevent the contagion from spreading.
Reported to the Health Department on Friday, the case is not expected to pose a risk to the public and is not “out of the ordinary,” department spokesperson Michelle Corson said.
“They appear to be going above and beyond to get our guidance,” she said of officials at Mesa Verde. “The communication is going to continue. It is ongoing. Things could change tomorrow. (Mesa Verde officials) seem to truly want our recommendations. If something abnormal occurs, it would seem to follow suit that they will let us know.”
Because Mesa Verde is operated by a federal agency, it is outside the jurisdiction of the county health department.
Geo Group Inc., which operates Mesa Verde for the U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement Agency, did not respond to a request for comment.
The fact that many people contract chickenpox as children, and thus are immune, as well as the availability of a vaccine, keep the contagion from spreading easily, according to the Health Department.
Corson said that if Mesa Verde officials followed the department’s recommendations, the person who contracted chickenpox was placed in isolation.
The Health Department also recommends anyone found not to be immune to chickenpox be monitored for three weeks for symptoms.
The Californian obtained an email from a visitor of the facility that said four detainees whose blood tests revealed a higher likelihood of contracting chickenpox had been quarantined.
The visitor asked not to be identified out of the fear that Mesa Verde officials would prevent future visits.
The Health Department did not know what specific procedures Mesa Verde was undertaking to prevent additional cases.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chickenpox is highly contagious and can cause an itchy rash that spreads across the entire body. It is considered a serious disease for babies, adolescents, adults, pregnant women and people with a weakened immune system, the CDC says on its website.