Measles Arrived in America Again
The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced on September 14, 2021, it has identified five individuals diagnosed with measles, a highly contagious illness that is spread through coughing, sneezing, and contact with droplets from the nose, mouth, or throat of an infected individual.
The people confirmed that measles recently traveled from Afghanistan as part of the United States government’s emergency evacuation efforts, reported the VDH.
The Richmond and Henrico Health Districts (RHHD) have worked with a Richmond area hospital to identify and notify individuals potentially exposed at the hospital on September 10th.
In addition, the Piedmont Health District is working with federal partners to identify measles exposures at Fort Pickett in Nottoway County, VA.
The US Department of Defence Secretary John F. Kirby said on September 13, 2021, 'Operation Allies Welcome flights into the United States remain paused at the request of the CDC for at least seven additional days from today because of recently diagnosed cases of measles among Afghans who recently arrived in the United States.'
The health departments in Northern Virginia announced on September 11th that they were working together to identify people who may have been exposed at Dulles International Airport and other locations.
Most Americans are vaccinated against measles as children, which confers lifetime immunity. However, as of August 6, 2021, two measles cases have been confirmed by the U.S. CDC in 2021.
Since the New York-based measles outbreak in 2018-2019, a greater focus had been placed on under-vaccinated children traveling internationally.
But the COVID-19 pandemic changed vaccination rates.
As of May 15, 2020, the Vaccine Tracking System indicated a decrease in orders for measles-containing vaccines. This decline began the week after the COVID-19 national emergency was declared on March 13, 2020.
However, measles cases surged in 2019, reaching the highest level in 23 years, reported the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
And the Pan America Health Organization recently reported about 13% fewer children received their first dose of the MMR vaccine during 2020, compared to the year before. And a study found 32.9% of individuals in Brazil aged 10–40 years old had no antibodies against measles.
Measles is easily preventable through effective vaccines given as part of the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine series. Two doses are recommended for most individuals, with the first dose given at age 12 to 15 months and the second before kindergarten entry, at age 4 to 6 years.
The VDH says, 'Clinicians should keep measles as a possible diagnosis when evaluating individuals who have recently entered or returned to the USA.'
'Furthermore, a series of vaccinations are a requirement of parole for the Afghan nationals, including the measles vaccination and additional age-appropriate vaccinations,' confirmed the US Department of State during an Operation Allies Welcome briefing on September 14, 2021.
For more information on measles, visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/epidemiology/epidemiology-fact-sheets/measles-rubeola/. And a history of measles in America is published at this link.