Health Officials Reportedly Threatened Air Travel Ban for Individuals With Measles
Photo: AP (Elaine Thompson)
Eight individuals thought to be infected with measles reportedly canceled their air travel plans after they learned they could be placed under a health-related travel ban.
The Washington Post reported Friday that the individuals were cooperative after they were informed by health officials they could be placed on a Do Not Board List managed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The list, which is different from the No Fly list, has been in effect since 2007 and is intended to prevent commercial travel for individuals with “any communicable diseases that pose a serious public health threat,” including measles, according to the agency.
The measure is used as a last resort after all other options have been pursued, Martin Cetron, CDC Director for the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, told the Post. The paper reported the CDC must verify that a person is currently or “likely to be infectious” in order to have them put on the list, though the agency told CNN the measure can also be taken if an individual isn’t measles immune and is expected to come into contact with someone who has the virus.
Officials reportedly negotiate with airlines to avoid additional fees to the individual as the result of changed travel plans, in some cases even securing refunds for cooperative flyers, according to the Post. The CDC works with the Department of Homeland Security on enforcement of the health-related travel ban, but Cetron told CNN that in most cases, informing individuals that they could be placed on the list is an effective way of ensuring their cooperation.
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The discussions about a potential travel ban occurred after health officials in five states, including California, Illinois, New York, Oklahoma, and Washington, contacted the CDC about the travelers in question. It comes as the U.S. has seen the worst outbreak of measles since 1994, with 880 cases confirmed across 24 states so far this year. New York, in particular, has seen a huge spike in measles cases, with 535 confirmed in Brooklyn in Queens since September and another 250 reported in Rockland County.
Patrick Gallahue, a spokesperson for the New York City Department of Mental Health and Hygiene, told CNN that city health officials “worked with two individuals who were not immune to measles to prevent them from flying during the 21 days after they were exposed to measles virus, while they were at risk for getting sick,” but added that no one had been placed on the CDC’s list during this outbreak.
Rockland health officials also contacted the CDC about placing two individuals on the list. John Lyon, director of strategic communication for Rockland County Executive Ed Day, told the Post that the measure “served as an effective deterrent” to prevent them from traveling.
In a statement this week amid New York City’s climbing number of measles cases, Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot said she “strongly urge[s] unvaccinated New Yorkers to immediately get the vaccine, unless there is a medical condition that prevents them from doing so.”
“All New Yorkers should get vaccinated or confirm their immunity status with their doctor,” Barbot added.