US Officials Tell People With Measles Not to Fly or Be Banned From Air Travel

May 24, 2019

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Eight people believed to have measles received warnings from federal health officials that they could be barred from flying while possibly infected with the ultra-contagious disease, The Washington Post reports.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) was notified of eight potential measles cases from health officials in New York, California, Illinois, Texas and Washington. The individuals suspected of having measles were booked to fly on commercial flights, but the federal government warned they could not fly and threatened to place them on the Do Not Board list, managed by the CDC.

The Do Not Board list is a travel ban made in “collaboration with the Department of Homeland Security, to prevent commercial air travel by people who are contagious with certain diseases of public health concern,” the CDC says on its website. The threat of enacting the Do Not Board list is a benchmark illustrating the scale of measles outbreaks across the US.

A record-breaking number of measles cases have recently erupted in US. Currently, there have been 880 cases of the once-eradicated disease recorded in 24 states — the largest outbreak since 1994. The CDC reported that a majority of measles cases in the US have come from unvaccinated US residents returning from countries with their own mass outbreaks such as Israel, Ukraine and the Philippines. It is also fueled in part by the anti-vaccine movement, which has been gaining traction in parts of America like Rockland County, New York, where the virus is spreading rapidly.

Measles is a highly infectious disease, so much so that it can survive up to two hours in the air without a host. The best way to prevent the virus is by getting the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine, according to the CDC. One dose of the vaccine is 93% effective, and two doses are 97% effective. Pretty much anyone can get the shot, from children (around 6 and 12 months old) to adults who are unsure of their vaccination status. It’s also easily attainable in doctors’ offices.

“The US does not have a vaccine supply issue for MMR,” Dr. Manisha Patel, team leader for measles epidemiology at the CDC told TPG in March. “It’s readily available in many clinics and travel clinics. It’s not expensive. There should be no barrier to getting MMR in the US, which is why we encourage travelers or anybody traveling abroad to get vaccinated before they go.”

The risk of catching measles on a plane is still considerably low in the US because a majority of Americans are already immune to the virus. However, if you’re planning on traveling and are unsure of your vaccination status, Patel suggests travelers try to locate their immunization records as confirmation instead of trying to recall from memory.

“If you cannot find proof of immunity, or were born after 1957, you should consider getting MMR vaccine before traveling in accordance with CDC Yellow Book recommendations,” said Patel. The CDC Yellowbook is also a helpful resource for those traveling out of the country that are unsure of what vaccines or medical precautions they need to take prior to leaving the country. Learn more about that, here.

Featured image by Jeffrey Greenberg/UIG via Getty Images.

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