NEWS & ANALYSIS

CDC Warns Measles is Spreading Among Afghan Refugees


The CDC sent a private warning to the chief of Afghan evacuation operations detailing a measles outbreak among refugees that poses a major threat to public health. 

In the memo, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky urged Operations Allies Welcome to take “urgent public health action” including mass vaccinations of refugees, as there are now six confirmed cases, 17 suspected and hundreds of exposures. 

“The large number of unvaccinated Afghan evacuees as seen already has the potential to seed countless U.S. community outbreaks,” Walensky said, per Just the News. “These outbreaks represent a major public health threat and rapid mass vaccination and expanding quarantine and isolation capacities are essential.” 

She added that the current case numbers indicate the potential for “much larger imminent outbreaks” that could overwhelm hospitals already battling the Delta variant. 

“Immediate implementation of CDC public health standards is imperative to prevent introduction of measles into US communities and to respond to multiple concurrent measles outbreaks,” Walensky wrote. “Health care facilities are already at limited capacity as they battle the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which requires tremendous workforce in laboratory assets.” 

“Failing to swiftly execute the measures outlined above will likely result in increased exposure to evacuees and personnel supporting OAW operations, including safe havens,” she wrote. “Further, evacuates who have not been vaccinated (41% of children under five years old are not currently protected against measles) pose a public health threat.”

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