Migrant shelter stops taking new arrivals after 74 are diagnosed with chickenpox

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EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — The largest migrant shelter in Juarez is taking emergency measures to contain an outbreak of chickenpox, which has affected 74 people so far, federal officials said.

For starters, the Leona Vicario federal shelter has stopped taking in migrants, routing new arrivals to smaller church-run refuges, instead.

“The shelter remains open and in full operation… it’s just that for the next few days we are asking other facilities to help us until this issue is resolved,” said Juan Carlos Loera, the ranking Mexican federal government representative in Juarez.

The Leona Vicario center currently holds 811 migrants — mostly from Central America — who came to the border to seek asylum in the United States but found they had to wait in Mexico for hearings under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program. Half of the guests at the shelter are children and most of the adults are men, Loera said.

The outbreak began two weeks ago and since then authorities have separated the sick from the rest of the population and implemented cleaning and hygiene protocols to prevent further spread, the federal official said.

“We’re getting new blankets and mattresses; we’re throwing away the old. We’re opening new accesses and are meeting with health authorities every day. […] This is a temporary situation; it should be resolved in a matter of days,” Loera said.

Already, 20 of the sick have been cleared to rejoin the general population while 54 are in the containment protocol. Most of the affected are children, but Loera couldn’t provide an exact breakdown nor say how the outbreak began. Another federal official contacted later by Border Report said the first patient was a Honduran girl who is no longer at the shelter.

Chickenpox is an infectious disease causing a mild fever and a rash of itchy inflamed blisters. It is caused by the herpes zoster virus and mainly affects children, who are afterward usually immune. It’s also called varicella.

The federal shelter opened in August on the grounds of an abandoned manufacturing plant in Central Juarez. Federal officials billed it as the first of its kind in Mexico offering food, shelter, medical, psychological and job placement services.

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