How the CDC Responded to GOP Questions About Immigration and Measles

PHOTO: William "Bill" Cassidy, a Republican from Louisiana, attends a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee business meeting in Washington in this Jan. 8, 2015 file photo. PlayAndrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Images
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When Sen. Bill Cassidy asked Dr. Anne Schuchat of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the possible link between illegal immigration and the current outbreak of measles, she shut him down.

“Of those folks infected in the California epidemic, how many were native-born Americans and how many had immigrated here,” the Republican senator from Louisiana asked at a Senate health committee hearing on Tuesday.

Schuchat, who is the CDC's national director of immunization and respiratory diseases, replied, “I don’t have that information but what I can say is that most of the importation we have of measles each year are in Americans who are traveling abroad and back.”

Cassidy, also a physician, pressed on, saying he was worried that some immigrants might have “fallen between the cracks.”

“With the measles we are seeing spread in some of the wealthier communities in California for instance,” Schuchat responded, adding that the current outbreak can most likely be traced back to a strain of measles that came from the Philippines, carried into the U.S. by unvaccinated American travelers.

Years ago, the measles virus was often imported from Latin America, Schuchat went on to say, but thanks to a vigorous public health campaign in those countries that is no longer the case. In the Philippines, much of the immunization structure was destroyed after a typhoon ripped through the country two years ago, she noted.