US Threatens To Use Rare Air Travel Ban On Those With Suspected Measles Attempting To Fly

Health officials are taking the containment of the highly infectious disease very seriously. 1599686sv/Shutterstock

Health officials in America are threatening to use a rare air travel ban to prevent people with suspected measles from boarding planes and spreading the disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which controls the US’ Do Not Board list, told eight people from five different states that they could officially be prevented from boarding a plane if they didn’t voluntarily cancel their travel plans, the Washington Post reports.

All eight individuals agreed not to travel after being informed the federal government could place them on the Do Not Board list.

Most people are aware of the No-Fly list, maintained by the Terrorist Security Administration, but less will be aware that the CDC and Homeland Security set up the Do Not Board list in 2007 to restrict travel for public health purposes.

The CDC said it had been contacted by state health officials in Texas, New York, California, Illinois, and Washington. Luckily, they did not have to enforce the ban as once the individuals realized the severity of the situation, they canceled their plans.

“The deterrent effect is huge,” Dr Martin Cetron, director of the CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, told the Washington Post.

The agency has been hesitant in using the travel ban for fears of accusations of the government wielding its power over people, despite the prevention of people with potentially infectious diseases traveling making logical sense.

The last time it was enforced was in 2014, when the US experienced an unusual spike in measles cases, jumping from 187 in 2013 to 667 the next year. The CDC’s latest figures for the number of confirmed measles cases so far this year has it at 880 across 24 states, over twice as much as last year's total, and we’re not even halfway through 2019.

Before the measles vaccination program started in 1963, the CDC estimates between 3 and 4 million Americans contracted the virus every year. CDC 

The eight individuals were either confirmed to be infected, suspected of having the virus, or at high risk of catching it due to not being immunized and being in contact with someone who did have measles, CDC spokeswoman Caitlin Shockey told CNN.

Earlier this year, officials from New York State and New York City, which has seen the largest outbreak in the country, contacted the CDC for advice about placing two infected adults on the Do Not Board List, while two more who were not immune to the virus – essentially had not been vaccinated – had been in contact with an infected person during the virus’s 21-day incubation period.

Obviously, the safest way to make yourself (and your children) immune is to get vaccinated. The growing vaccine hesitancy movement is putting a lot of people at unnecessary risk, and the CDC has made it clear it will enforce the travel ban if those capable of transmitting the infection refuse to cancel their travel plans for the health and safety of other people. 

Remember, if you think you may have contracted measles, don't go to your nearest hospital – this is where people who are at highest risk of infection through compromised immune systems that don't allow them to be vaccinated reside. The CDC recommends you contact your doctor via telephone to explain your symptoms and they will advise the best course of action. If this requires a physical examination, they will organize it so as to minimize contact with other people. And whatever you do, don't get on an airplane.

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