During a Friday press briefing White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that Operation Allies Welcome flights to America have been temporarily halted due to four cases of the measles found among Afghans who recently came into the U.S.
Psaki said that "Operation Allies Welcome flights into" America "have been temporarily paused at the request of the CDC and out of an abundance of caution because of 4 diagnosed cases of measles among Afghans who recently arrived in the United States. These individual are being quarantined in accordance with public health guidelines and the CDC has begun full contact tracing," she said.
"All arriving Afghans are currently required to be vaccinated for measles as a condition of entry," she said, noting that Afghans at bases in America are getting immunizations including MMR, a reference to vaccination for the measles, mumps, and rubella. "We are also exploring measures to vaccinate people while they are still overseas. So that's something we're looking into."
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U.S. Customs and Border Protection made the choice to stop the plane trips on the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to the Associated Press, which noted that it was not clear from Psaki's comments if the halt pertained to flights from all transit sites abroad or just to two which are located in Qatar and Germany.
A government document seen by the outlet noted that the move would "severely impact" operations at Ramstein Air Base and that flights to America from al-Udeid base in Qatar would halt.
Measles is very contagious according to the CDC, which notes that the illness "is so contagious that if one person has it, up to 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected."
"It can spread to others through coughing and sneezing," the CDC notes. "If other people breathe the contaminated air or touch the infected surface, then touch their eyes, noses, or mouths, they can become infected."
"Measles virus can live for up to two hours in an airspace after an infected person leaves an area," according to the CDC.