U.S. Measles Outbreak: Officials Threaten Using Rare Travel Ban to Fight Spread of Infection

Health officials across five U.S. states warned people infected with measles that they could be prevented from traveling on planes through use of a rare travel ban.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the leading national public health institute which manages a Do Not Board list, told eight individuals that they could be prevented from boarding a plane if they refused to cancel their upcoming travel arrangements, reported The Washington Post. All eight individuals agreed to cancel their flights. The CDC was alerted of the individuals by state health officials in New York, California, Illinois, Texas and Washington.

Martin Cetron, director of the agency's Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, told the newspaper that "the deterrent effect is huge."

Officials had been hesitant to enforce the ban "because it is a politically charged and politically visible request," Lawrence Hostin, a professor of global health policy at Georgetown University, told the newspaper.

The measure "is seen as a government using its power over the people and the states, which is kind of toxic in America right now," Gostin continued. "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."

Although the citizens who were contacted by health officials all agreed to terminate their travel plans, the CDC has the authority to place those who refuse on the Do Not Board list. Authorities have not been forced to utilize the ban since the measles outbreak began last year.

Health officials in Rockland County, New York, and New York City have cautioned several infected individuals from traveling. Rockland County, which has seen 239 cases of the measles since October 2018, also discussed putting a few infected people, who were scheduled to fly to Israel in April to celebrate the Passover holiday, on the list. However, it didn't have to execute the threat since all the individuals who were contacted canceled their plans.

According to CDC data released on May 20, there have been approximately 880 reported cases of measles across 24 states this year, the largest volume of infections in America since 1994.

Officials said the breakout was caused by a growing anti-vaccine movement and spread by global travel. Most of the cases in America developed from an unvaccinated domestic citizen traveling to areas with widespread outbreaks, such as Ukraine and the Philippines.

The CDC and the Department of Homeland Security jointly developed the Do Not Board list in 2007 to prevent individuals with diseases posing a serious public health risk from traveling by air. The move came after an Atlanta man carrying drug-resistant tuberculosis cased a health scare after traveling on a transatlantic flight.

An American Airlines passenger jet approaches Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport May 9, 2019, in Arlington, Virginia. Health officials across five states have people travelling with measles could be placed on a Do Not Board List enforced by the by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images