To Combat Ongoing Measles Outbreak, Authorities Threaten To Use Air Travel Ban

Federal officials keep a “Do Not Board” list to prevent those who have a public health risk from getting on planes.

Combat Ongoing Measles Air Travel Ban

Health authorities in five states have warned people, who are believed to be infected with measles and planning to travel, that they would not allow them from boarding planes.

Martin Cetron, director of the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine at the CDC, said, “All eight individuals agreed to cancel their flights after learning the officials could ask the federal government to place them on a Do Not Board List managed by the CDC. The deterrent effect is huge.”

The CDC said health officials in New York, California, Illinois, Texas and Washington had contacted the agency about the individuals.

Lawrence Gostin, a professor of global health policy at Georgetown University, said, “The government’s travel ban authority often gets little discussion because it is a politically charged and politically visible request.”

Gostin added, “Though less restrictive than isolation or quarantine, the public health measure is seen as a government using its power over the people and the states, which is kind of toxic in America right now. There is nothing unethical or wrong about it. It’s just plain common sense that if you have an actively infectious individual, they should not get on an airplane.”

Health officials emphasize that getting vaccinated is the best and most effective way to be protected from measles. And the vast majority of people with communicable diseases such as measles listen to their doctors’ advice not to travel.

Public health officials in Rockland County and New York City (NYC), where the measles outbreak has hit hard, advised several infected people against traveling. Earlier this spring, the officials consulted with CDC about placing two individuals with measles on the list to prevent from flying to Israel. Rockland County spokesman John Lyon said, “It served as an effective deterrent. They did not travel.”

In NYC, the health officials advised two individuals with no history of immunization and had been exposed to the infection against flying. Spokesman Patrick Gallahue said, “We have worked with passengers to minimize the inconvenience of travel disruptions in order to protect the health of New Yorkers and other travelers. People have been very cooperative.”

According to a CDC report updated on Monday, the United States has been experiencing a record number of measles cases this year, with 880 cases have been reported in 24 states, which the largest since 1994.

The outbreaks are occurring due to an increasingly organized anti-vaccine movement in the United States. Also, global travel has been playing a tremendous role in spreading the outbreak from one place to another.

In the United States, the majority of measles cases originated from unvaccinated Americans who are returning from places with large outbreaks, such as Israel, Ukraine and the Philippines.

Ed Day, Rockland County Executive, said his county’s outbreak began when seven travelers came from countries with large measles outbreaks. On Monday, he wrote to President Trump requesting the White House to issue an order, or ask Congress to pass a law, which will require visitors to present a “certification of appropriate immunization.”

On April 26, Trump urged Americans to protect themselves from the virus by getting vaccinated as the numbers have hit the highest levels in the United States since 2000.

Gostin said, “Under international health regulations, countries are allowed to require proof of vaccination only against yellow fever. It would be “chaos” and unwieldy and probably a violation of international health regulations, he said, for the United States to single out proof of measles vaccination.”

The “Do Not Board” list was initiated in 2007. It was developed after a man from Atlanta with drug-resistant tuberculosis caused a health scare after flying to Europe for his wedding and honeymoon.

Cetron said, “The risk of catching measles on a plane is relatively low since 80 to 85 percent of U.S. travelers are immunized.” Some public health departments have taken steps to offer refunds for those who voluntarily agreed to change their plans.