City seeks to vaccinate local detention centers after disease outbreaks

LAREDO, TX (KGNS) - A high number of a contagious disease at local detention centers is prompting City leaders to seek help from Austin and Washington.

Over 30 cases of the mumps were reported at the facilities and 20 others among the community this year alone.

As of Thursday, Doctor Gonzalez with the City’s Health Department says there are zero cases of mumps at both local detention centers.

"The two federal ones that hold persons for immigration and customs hold up to 2,000, and so these persons can be infected with the flu, one, but other infected diseases."

Doctor Gonzalez is referring to other diseases like chickenpox and mumps.

"But then the staff are exposed, and the staff can then take it home, and we did see that in mumps."

The detention centers combined saw a total 33 cases of the mumps from January to September. That's a huge increase when compared to last year, when they saw one single case. Doctor Gonzalez said that's an example of how disease outbreaks can spread out of the centers and into the community.

"The workers at the detention center, the agents from Homeland Security who live in our community and their families, and the courts. All of the attorneys, all of the marshals, all of the judges, all of the court employees."

In comparison, the community saw a total of zero mumps cases last year in 2018. This year, 20 cases have been confirmed.

"We want to make sure that those in the detention centers are vaccinated."

Councilman for District 8, Roberto Balli, says vaccinating people at the centers is being proactive.

"So a lot of people are at risk of spreading viruses that are born in the detention centers, and so we just want our health department to keep good tabs so that the rest of the community is safe," said Balli.

Unfortunately, the State of Texas has already declined having resources available for the vaccinations.

"We ask the Commissioner of Health if they have funding for vaccines, and they've already informed us that they don't."

For now, the City will sign a resolution asking the federal government for flu vaccinations at detention centers, a request that resonates a recent recommendation by the CDC director himself.

"It's the right thing to do, it's a good public health measure, and it's coming from the top health official at the federal level,” said Councilman Balli. “We support it."

Other preventative methods that were discussed included testing the detainees for diseases, but Doctor Gonzalez says it's efficient to give shots, not to mention safer for the whole community. But for right now, another potential outbreak is at risk until the feds can supply those vaccinations or funding.

The Health Department director also mentioned Congressman Cuellar is supporting efforts to get vaccinations for detention centers.