Chicken pox outbreak forces closure of migrant shelter in Mexico

The Leona Vicario shelter in Ciudad Juárez houses nearly 800 migrants awaiting court dates in the U.S.

Chicken pox outbreak forces closure of migrant shelter in Mexico
A migrant carrying his daughter prays at the government-run Leona Vicario migrant shelter, temporarily closed by health authorities following a varicela outbreak - Photo: José Luis González/REUTERS
English 01/01/2020 14:08 Newsroom & Agencies Mexico City Julio-César Chávez, Drazen Jorgic & Daniel Wallis/REUTERS & Ibeth Mancinas/EL UNIVERSAL Actualizada 14:21
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An outbreak of chicken pox has forced the temporary closure of a shelter housing Central American migrants sent to Mexico from the United States, Mexican authorities said on Friday, as officials sought to contain the highly contagious virus.

The Leona Vicario shelter in the northern city of Ciudad Juárez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, closed on Thursday after 72 people, including 69 children, were diagnosed with the virus, officials in Mexico’s Chihuahua state said in a statement. Different media outlets report health officials confirmed on Tuesday the number increased to 127 cases.

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Most people infected with chicken pox simply feel unwell — with symptoms including an itchy, blister-like rash, fever, headache and fatigue — but some develop serious complications. Nevertheless, no one has required hospitalization until now.

The Ciudad Juárez facility, which houses nearly 800 people awaiting court dates in the United States, is part of a network of shelters in Mexico that the Trump administration has used to enforce its policy of sending mostly Central American migrants south of the border while their asylum cases are pending.

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The shelter, which is run by Mexico’s federal government, did not respond to a request for comment.

A federal official said the virus was spread by a Honduran girl returned to Mexico on December 7, 2019, by the U.S. government under Washington’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) policy, Mexico’s El Diario newspaper reported.

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Health officials in Chihuahua said the virus has been contained and many migrants are being vaccinated, particularly vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly, and those with chronic illnesses.

The chicken pox outbreak is the biggest such incident in Ciudad Juárez since this year’s introduction of MPP, also known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy.

Disease outbreaks such as mumps, measles, and chicken pox have also occurred in migrant detention facilities in the United States.

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