A measles outbreak that has shuttered the Eloy immigration court and restricted movement at the neighboring detention center is being fueled by detention center staff members refusing to get vaccinated, health officials said Thursday.
When measles cases started surfacing at the Eloy detention center in the spring, Pinal County health officials made two requests, Health Director Thomas Schryer said.
"One was for the inmates or detainees to become vaccinated," Schryer said. "They all agreed to do that so they are immune and are not passing the disease amongst each other.
"The other was for the staff to either be vaccinated or provide proof of immunity," he said. "However probably about 40 percent of the staff have not done that, and what we’re seeing today and the reason we’re seeing cases out of that facility is because the staff are passing measles amongst each other, and unfortunately they’re going out into the community, so we expect to see more cases from those exposures."
He said workers are refusing vaccination requests and employers are trying to convince them otherwise.
Hearings were supposed to begin again at the immigration court after they were temporarily suspended last May. But a new measles case prompted federal immigration officials to keep the detention center restricted and the adjacent immigration court closed until July 14.
A measles case discovered Monday brings the total to 20 cases in the state.
"And we are also seeing staff and that’s the most current cases have been," said Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services. "They’ve been staff that have been working at the facility that have been exposed but they’ve gone out into the community."
Christ said one difficulty facing health workers is that people carry the measles virus four days before symptoms appear.