Biden adds measles to list of ‘quarantinable’ diseases after infections among Afghan refugees

Biden adds measles to list of ‘quarantinable’ diseases after infections among Afghan refugees

The US federal government has granted itself the power to apprehend and quarantine individuals infected with measles, with the White House ordering the move after the illness was detected among newly arrived Afghan refugees.

President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Friday evening that added measles to a federal list of “quarantinable communicable diseases,” which outlines regulations for the “apprehension, detention, or conditional release” of people carrying dangerous illnesses.

Though Biden’s order gave no reasoning for the decision, a White House spokesperson later told the Hill that the list was amended due in part to measles outbreaks among Afghan refugees who landed in the US in recent weeks.

“This action was taken at the request of public health officials, who cited the cases of measles among Afghans who recently arrived in the U.S. as well as several previous outbreaks of measles in recent years,” the spokesperson said.

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The Biden administration previously halted flights bringing in Afghan evacuees after six cases of measles were spotted in Virginia, all among refugees flown into the country following the US military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan after 20 years of war. Some 110,000 Afghan nationals were flown out of the war-torn nation as part of a two-week evacuation mission, tens of thousands of whom have entered the US seeking citizenship or asylum, many now being temporarily housed at a series of military bases.

While vaccinations against measles, a viral illness, were already required upon entering the country, it appears some cases slipped by authorities amid the massive evac operation. The Pentagon has started administering vaccinations against the virus to refugees overseas during the pause on flights. 

Aside from the new arrivals, US health officials also reportedly cited a recent uptick in measles cases overall, as 2019 saw more infections than any year since 1992, according to the CDC.

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