- Health officials from five US states threatened to put people with measles who had travel plans on a rare “Do Not Board” list.
- The eight individuals cancelled their flights after the warning.
- The US is going through its worst measles outbreak in decades, caused in part by people travelling and spreading the virus in unvaccinated communities.
- The “Do Not Board” list was developed in 2007 when a man travelled to Europe with drug-resistant tuberculosis.
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US health officials from five states threatened to invoke a rare travel ban in an attempt to contain the country’s sweeping outbreak of measles, The Washington Post reported.
Authorities were aware of eight individuals believed to be infected and planning to board a plane, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told the newspaper. Officials warned they could ask the CDC to put the individuals on a “Do Not Board” list, effectively banning them from flying.
The people, in New York, California, Illinois, Texas and Washington, cancelled their trips after the warning.
The US is experiencing its worst measles outbreak in decades even though it eradicated the highly infectious disease in 2000, according to the CDC. The agency recorded 880 cases this year.
It attributes the spike in infections to two reasons. Travellers are increasingly bringing back measles from countries experiencing large outbreaks like Israel, Ukraine, and the Philippines. And the virus then spreads among pockets of unvaccinated people in the US.
New York’s Rockland County, one of the worst hit areas, has recorded 247 cases already.
Rockland officials had to consult with the CDC about barring two individuals from flying earlier this year, county spokesman John Lyon told The Washington Post. The infected people wanted to travel to Israel for Passover.
“It served as an effective deterrent,” Lyon said. “They did not travel.”
Not far away, New York City is experiencing the country’s worst outbreak with 523 confirmed cases.
Officials told the Washington Post that they asked two individuals who “were not immune to measles” but had been exposed to the disease to respect the three-week incubation period.
“We have worked with passengers to minimise the inconvenience of travel disruptions in order to protect the health of New Yorkers and other travellers,” spokesman Patrick Gallahue said in statement. “People have been very cooperative.”
The CDC’s Do Not Board list was introduced in 2007 when health officials could not deter an Atlanta man from honeymooning in Europe even though he had drug resistant tuberculosis, according to The Washington Post.
Since then, the list has primarily been used for tuberculosis, though two people with measles were prevented from flying in 2014.
Martin Cetron, director of the CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, told the newspaper that the risk of getting measles on a plane is relatively low because most Americans are immunized. Still, the CDC had to investigate 62 flights that people with measles took this year.
For people who are not vaccinated, the virus is highly infectious, according to the CDC. If someone with measles coughs or sneezes, the virus lives in that airspace for up to two hours.
Measles is especially dangerous for children who can develop pneumonia, intellectual disabilities, or go deaf if they contract the disease. In extreme cases, it can lead to death.
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