US Government Considers Issuing Air Travel Ban Against Measles Outbreak Risk

A 'Do Not Board' list issued by the federal authorities stops passengers with a public health risk from boarding.
Fabienne Lang

Eight individuals believed to be infected by measles and traveling across five U.S. States agreed to cancel their flights. Officials had threatened to place them on the federal government's  'Do Not Board' list.


The list is managed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which tracks disease outbreaks.

The CDC had been contacted about the travelers by officials in New York, California, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Washington states. 

US Government Considers Issuing Air Travel Ban Against Measles Outbreak Risk
Flight disruptions. Pixabay

Lawrence Gostin, a professor of global health policy at Georgetown University, says that although it is less restrictive than isolation or quarantine, the public health measure “is seen as a government using its power over the people and the states, which is kind of toxic in America right now.”

“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.”

The vaccination issue

Vaccinations have been a point of contention in the past few years. However, in order to protect ourselves against measles, health officials emphasize that it is the best and most effective way. 

Officials in the health department have been taking cautious measures when advising people infected by measles whether or not to travel. In New York City, for example, which has 523 cases, the largest in the nation so far, advised two people 'not immune to measles' not to travel during the 21-day incubation period.

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US Government Considers Issuing Air Travel Ban Against Measles Outbreak Risk
Vaccines. Pixabay

More controversial and restrictive public health measures have been taken in order to curb the outbreak. New York City closed schools that refused to keep unvaccinated children home and issued mandatory vaccination orders for people living in several Brooklyn neighborhoods with a potential $1,000 fine.

The United States has counted 880 cases of measles outbreaks that have been reported over 24 states in the past year. The largest number since 1994.

Anti-vaccine movement

Numbers have increased by and large due to the organized anti-vaccine movement. The majority of the cases in the U.S. came from un-vaccinated individuals traveling to countries where measles outbreaks are occurring: Israel, the Philippines, and Ukraine, for example. 

At present, international health regulations only ask for proof of immunization against yellow fever. According to Gostin, it would be 'chaos' to single out proof of immunization against measles.

What is the 'Do Not Board' list?

Developed in 2007 because a man from Atlanta who suffered from drug-resistant tuberculosis traveled to Europe and back, the Do Not Board list was created in the U.S. as a method to minimize health risks while traveling.

The risks were for the other passengers traveling on the same planes as the Atlanta man; however, no-one was believed to be infected.

2014 saw the first two people placed on the list for measles cases and banned from traveling. Up until then the list predominantly encompassed tuberculosis-infected individuals. 

US Government Considers Issuing Air Travel Ban Against Measles Outbreak Risk
Aircraft. Pixabay

Will I catch measles while traveling?

The chances of catching measles while traveling are still low, as approximately 80 to 85 percent of U.S. travelers are already immunized. Regardless, this year alone has counted 62 airplane-related cases of people traveling with measles. A number that is rising each year. 

The CDC has to identify whether or not someone is infectious after they have been placed on the list, and only occurs after all other avenues have been tried.

Health officials work closely with airlines and attempt to remove any change or cancellation fees for those who agree to their travel changes.

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