RICHMOND, VA – Six people who recently traveled to the United States fleeing the Taliban in Afghanistan have been diagnosed with measles, officials said Tuesday.
Cases in Virginia and Wisconsin are coming four days after the US halted Afghan evacuation flights after discovering some cases of measles among new arrivals.
One case was confirmed on September 5 at Fort McCoy, an army base in western Wisconsin, which is temporarily housing 8,000 people as they prepare to settle across the country.
Cheryl Phillips, a spokeswoman for a task force overseeing refugees at Fort McCoy, said one person showed symptoms on Sept. 4 after arriving at First Base earlier that day.
Phillips said the person was placed in isolation and others potentially exposed were quarantined and given measles vaccinations.
The Virginia Department of Health initially said on Friday that three people from Afghanistan had been diagnosed with measles in northern Virginia. The agency said it is notifying those who have taken the potential risk at locations including Dulles International Airport and two local hospitals.
The agency updated the number of measles cases to five in a news release on Tuesday. Health officials said they were working to notify potentially exposed people at an unnamed Richmond hospital as well as an Army National Guard base southwest of Fort Pickett, Richmond, who recently arrived Providing temporary accommodation to the people.
Measles is a highly contagious disease that can be spread through coughing, sneezing, and contact with droplets from the nose, mouth, or throat. Most Americans were vaccinated against it as children.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that all Afghans arriving in the United States must be vaccinated against measles as a condition of entering the United States. They are still abroad.
Cases of measles in Virginia and Wisconsin came in the wake of the US government halting Afghan evacuation flights to the US on Friday. The decision was made by US Customs and Border Protection on the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Saki said on Friday that the halt stemmed from the discovery of measles among four Afghans who had arrived in the United States.
In development US officials on Friday removed from planes Afghan families who were already battling a grueling, dangerous escape to safety after Kabul fell into the hands of the Taliban on August 15. Afghans had to crush Taliban posts and crowds to enter Kabul airport. A suicide attack at the airport gate killed 169 Afghans and 13 US military members.
A government document seen by The Associated Press said the stoppage at one of the largest transit sites at Rammstein Air Base in Germany would be “severely affected”. It also said that flights to the US will stop at the US al-Udeed base in Qatar.
Thousands of Afghans evacuated by air from Kabul are still on their way to new homes in the United States. Some Kosovo face transfer for further screening.