Measles cases disrupt Afghan refugee flights to US


The White House said the shutdown was recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after the four cases of measles were diagnosed.

“Operation Allies Welcome flights to the United States have been temporarily suspended at the request of the CDC and out of caution due to four diagnosed cases of measles among Afghans recently arrived in the United States,” the attaché said. White House Press Officer Jen Psaki. told reporters.

She did not specify where the cases were. Flights of Afghans arrive in the United States from military bases in Germany and Qatar. Many are operated by commercial carriers.

Fort McCoy, a military base in Wisconsin that hosts Afghan refugees, said in a statement Friday that “Operation Allies Welcome identified a single guest who arrived” last Saturday and “was showing symptoms consistent with measles.” A diagnosis of measles was confirmed the next day.

“Immediately after notification of the suspected case, the guest was placed in isolation and guests at risk of exposure were placed in quarantine. Post-exposure vaccination was also provided to those at risk and contact tracing was carried out. Since the case was identified, no other guest has been diagnosed with measles, “the statement said.

Measles is a highly contagious virus that can cause serious health complications. It was declared wiped out in the United States in 2000. However, travelers continued to bring the virus to the United States, leading to local spread and epidemics among unvaccinated people.

Psaki said people with measles were being quarantined according to public health guidelines and contact tracing had started. She said arriving Afghans must be vaccinated against measles as a condition of entry into the United States.

The measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is currently being given to Afghans at military facilities in the United States, Psaki said. She added that the administration was exploring measures to vaccinate people in places overseas.

Individuals are also offered Covid-19 vaccines and tests for the virus.

The Biden administration continues to question how it will control and safely resettle the thousands of people who fled the Taliban as they took control of Afghanistan this summer.

Since August 17, about 60,000 people have arrived in the United States as part of Operation Allies Welcome, the Department of Homeland Security said on Wednesday.

Of these arrivals, 11% are US citizens, 6% are lawful permanent residents of the United States, 83% are other “Afghans at risk”, including holders of special immigrant visas and other visa holders, SIV applicants and others. The group also includes a small number of third country nationals who have also been evacuated and treated, DHS said.

While Afghans are screened before entering the United States, those who hastily left the country without papers have resulted in additional screening and caused long delays.

There are currently more than 40,000 Afghans at eight military installations in the United States, and that number is expected to increase as more and more Afghans complete their screening overseas and are brought to the United States.

The Inspector General of the Ministry of Defense is currently assessing the military process of screening and tracking Afghan evacuees this month, including those identified as posing a security risk.

Last month, the Pentagon also acknowledged unsanitary conditions at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, the base where the U.S. military has temporarily stationed thousands of evacuees from Afghanistan.

This story was updated with additional details on Friday.

CNN’s Jamie Gumbrecht, Maegan Vazquez and Oren Liebermann contributed to this report.


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