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Fort McCoy officials confirm 2 more measles cases among Afghan evacuees

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Refugee vaccinations

U.S. Army Capt. Breanna Alis vaccinates an Afghan girl during a mass vaccination campaign at Fort McCoy on Sept. 16. More than 97% of Afghan refugees at the base have received vaccinations for measles, mumps and rubella, as well as for chickenpox, polio and COVID-19. 

Fort McCoy officials have confirmed another two cases of measles among Afghan evacuees, bringing the total number of Afghans who have been infected at the military base up to nine.

Fort McCoy spokesperson Cheryl Phillips said Monday that none of the cases are active.

“To minimize risk to the neighboring community, individuals presenting with symptoms consistent with measles were isolated until confirmatory diagnostics were completed,” Phillips said. “Confirmed cases remained in isolation until fully recovered.”

As of Sept. 22, only seven measles cases had been reported, but on Friday Phillips confirmed that number had risen to nine. She did not give a timeline for when the cases were discovered. The first person reported as being infected with measles tested positive on Sept. 5.

Phillips said Fort McCoy personnel conducted contact tracing, and those who came in close contact with the virus were quarantined.

More than 97% of the nearly 13,000 Afghan evacuees at Fort McCoy were vaccinated against measles during a mass vaccination campaign from Sept. 16 to Sept. 21, so it’s unlikely the infectious disease will spread much further. Afghans received the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, the polio vaccine, the chickenpox vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine.

Measles is a highly contagious viral infection of the respiratory system that is spread by breathing contaminated air or touching contaminated surfaces. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus is so contagious that up to 90% of people close to an infected person who are not immune will also catch it.

Afghans need to complete the necessary medical screenings, including vaccinations, before getting resettled to a new home within the U.S., the Department of State has said.

Phillips said Afghans who have gotten the measles, mumps and rubella vaccines need to wait three weeks for the vaccine to take effect before leaving Fort McCoy, according to CDC guidance.

Those vaccinated during the mass effort should be coming up on the end of that three-week period this week. Phillips declined to say how many Afghan families have already been resettled.

“At Fort McCoy, we are at the point where many families are completing their processes and starting their new lives in communities across the United States,” she said.


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