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Afghan evacuees’ flights to be halted for a week after measles cases

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Evacuees from Afghanistan arrive at Hamad International Airport in Qatar’s capital Doha on the first flight carrying foreigners out of the Afghan capital since the US withdrawal was concluded last month, September 9, 2021.

Karim Jafaar | AFP | Getty Images

WASHINGTON Incoming flights of Afghan refugees to the United States will remain suspended for at least a week, a White House spokeswoman said on Monday, after four cases of measles were discovered among newly arrived Afghans.

The flights, which were first interrupted on Friday, “will remain suspended for at least an additional 7 days,” White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Boise, Idaho. A White House official later clarified that this meant a week from Monday, not a week from last Friday.

Measles is a very contagious virus that can be spread through coughing or sneezing. In 2000, the Centers for Disease Control declared that measles was no longer transmitted among Americans.

Afghans who have been diagnosed with measles “are being housed separately in accordance with public health guidelines, and the CDC has started full contact tracing,” Jean-Pierre said.

The tens of thousands of Afghan refugees currently housed in US Army bases are being administered “essential vaccines, including [measles, mumps and rubella], “Jean-Pierre said.

“We will soon start vaccinating Afghans against MMR while they are still abroad,” she added.

All those arriving as part of Operation Allies Welcome must be vaccinated against measles as a condition of entry.

As of Monday, it was unclear how many Afghans bound for the United States remained in the dozens of U.S. and Allied military bases around the world that agreed to take in refugees during the massive airlift of the last two weeks. August.

By the end of September, the United States plans to admit approximately 65,000 refugees as part of Operation Allies Welcome.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people can become infected with measles if they breathe in contaminated air or touch a contaminated surface and then touch their eyes, nose, or mouth.

Before the introduction of a measles vaccine in 1963, about half a million new cases of measles were reported to the CDC each year.

The vaccine reduced the number of cases for decades, until measles was finally considered eliminated in 2000.

But the growing number of parents over the past 10 years who refuse to immunize their children has led to a resurgence of the disease in America.

Hundreds of measles cases were reported in 2019 in the United States, a huge jump from previous years.

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