The measles outbreak in Israel has taken an alarming turn for the worse as two people—a 43-year-old El Al flight attendant and a 10-year old boy—were reported hospitalized and in serious condition.
The flight attendant, suffering from meningoencephalitis, a complication of the disease, was in a coma at Meir Hospital; and the boy was on a ventilator at Schneider Medical Center in Petach Tikva, according to media reports. Both may have sustained irreversible brain damage.
“The damage is very serious,” Dr. Avi Lin, deputy director of Meir Hospital, told Ynet. “We continue to evaluate her situation every day and hope for the best.”
She was on board El AL flight 002 from Kennedy Airport to Tel Aviv on March 26, and the Health Ministry has advised all passengers on that flight to immediately seek medical care if they think they may be coming down with measles.
On Wednesday, the ministry said it would keep child healthcare centers open throughout Pesach, when children are on vacation, in an effort to improve vaccination rates.
“If everybody had been vaccinated as required we would not be in this situation,” Prof. Sigal Sedetzki, head of public health services at the Health Ministry, told Channel 12.
Sedetzki said the chareidi community in particular had “several pockets” that do not vaccinate. He urged parents to have their children vaccinated without delay.
Israelis are also advised to make sure that they are vaccinated before flying overseas, Channel 13 said on Thursday.
An internal Health Ministry document revealed earlier this week that two million Israelis are at least partially not vaccinated, according to Channel 13. That figure likely includes those born between 1957 and 1977 who require two booster shots for full protection.
In November, an 18-month-old toddler in Yerushalayim died of the disease, the first recorded death from measles in Israel in the past 15 years. A month later, an 82-year-old woman became the second fatality.