CDC alert to medical professionals: Afghan refugees may spread infectious diseases

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It seems like this warning from the CDC shouldn’t be necessary yet the agency issued an alert to medical professionals to be on the lookout for Afghan refugees with infectious disease symptoms. A few cases of infectious diseases for which most Americans are vaccinated have started popping up among the Afghan evacuees recently brought into the United States. The CDC posted an announcement on its website warning medical professionals and staff of the possibility of Afghan refugees bringing infectious diseases like measles, mumps, and rubella into the country during their evacuation. Most Americans have been vaccinated against all those diseases. The number of cases referenced in the warning is relatively small in comparison to the total number of evacuees so far but it’s worth noting that the CDC is obviously trying to get out in front of the possibility of that the spread of, say, measles becomes a major story. The warning comes from the Emergency Preparedness and Response section of the CDC website. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that clinicians be on alert for cases of measles that meet the case definition, as well as other infectious diseases, including mumps, leishmaniasis, and malaria, among evacuees (including both Afghan nationals and U.S. citizens) from Afghanistan. Clinicians should immediately notify their local or state health department of any suspected cases of measles. Clinicians should also recommend the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine for unvaccinated patients. Measles is an extremely contagious infectious disease; around 9 out of 10 people who are close contacts and who are not protected will become infected following exposure to measles virus. As of September 20, 2021, CDC has been notified of 16 confirmed cases of measles and 4 cases of mumps among Afghan nationals and U.S. citizens, recently arriving from Afghanistan and continued vigilance is needed. In addition to MMR vaccination, CDC recommends that evacuees are also up to date on vaccinations for varicella, polio, COVID-19, and seasonal influenza.

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