The Virginia Department of Health says it reaches people potentially exposed to measles by at least five evacuees from Afghanistan over the past week, at Dulles Airport, Fort Pickett and a hospital in Richmond.
VDH marked several locations in northern Virginia for potential exposure to measles last week, but confirmed Tuesday that five people have actually been diagnosed with the viral disease.
“The people confirmed that they had recently raised measles from Afghanistan as part of the US Government’s emergency evacuation efforts,” said VDH in one announcement, added that it was “Reach out to people” that may have been revealed.
Washington Dulles International Airport, a named hospital in the state of Richmond, and the U.S. Army base called Fort Pickett in nearby Nottoway County were mentioned as potential locations.
More than 110,000 Afghan nationals were evacuated by the United States during the two-week air transport from Kabul after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan. Tens of thousands have already been brought to the United States, despite concerns about their state of health and – in some cases – even identity.
Flights with Afghan refugees were temporarily halted last week after a total of six suspected cases of measles were identified at Dulles Airport, the main international hub for the US city, and an army base in Wisconsin. The moratorium is still in effect, a White House official told reporters Tuesday until the refugees can be vaccinated against measles at U.S. military bases abroad.
VDH said there was no reason for the public to be alarmed as most Americans are required to have it “Safe and efficient” MMR vaccine as young children, providing lifelong immunity.
Measles, also known as rubeola, is a highly contagious viral disease that spreads through droplets that are expelled by coughing and sneezing. Most Americans have been vaccinated against it as young children, but it is endemic in some parts of the world, such as Afghanistan.
The United States had a major measles outbreak in 2019 that almost lost its WHO status for having eliminated the disease. Over 1,000 cases were attributable of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for only two travelers returning from abroad and bringing the virus into “Pockets with low vaccination coverage and variable vaccine acceptance” among the Orthodox Jewish communities in New York City and State.
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