Health officials in the Thursday were sounding the alarm on the sprawling outbreak of measles that has seen thousands of cases nationwide in the past year, after a flight attendant and a 10-year-old boy were believed to have suffered irreversible brain damage from the highly contagious disease, and as some 45,000 Israeli children reportedly remained unvaccinated.
The condition of the El Al worker who was hospitalized earlier this month with the measles has deteriorated, the Hebrew media reported on Thursday. She is in a coma, has been moved to an isolated intensive care unit, and has suffered suspected brain damage.
The young boy has also been hospitalized at the Schneider Medical Center in Petah Tikva with suspected brain damage and is attached to a fan, according to television reports.
The El Al flight attendant, 43, was admitted to the hospital two weeks ago after contracting the disease in a flight from New York. She is suffering from meningoencephalitis ̵
The woman worked on board El AL flight 002 From the John F. Kennedy Airport to Tel Aviv on March 26 and the Health Ministry advised all travelers that flight to immediately seek medical care if they develop symptoms of the measles.
A blood test revealed that the El AL flight attendant was vaccinated with only one shot against measles instead of the two inoculations recommended for her age group. Consequently, El Al instructed all flight attendants to receive measles shots.
"The damage is very serious," Dr. Avi Lin, deputy director of Meir Hospital, told the Ynet news site. "
Earlier this week, an internal Health Ministry document revealed that two million Israelis are partially or not vaccinated, according to Channel 13. That figure would include those born between 1957 and 1977 who require two booster shots to be fully inoculated against the disease, which the ministry has not mandated.
The measles is making a resurgent in Israel primarily due to parents who do not inoculate their children. Up to 45,000 children, mostly from ultra-Orthodox families, are not vaccinated at all, Channel 12 news reported Thursday. According to the report, these children are aged 1-6 years old and the Health Ministry will reach out to their families.
On Wednesday, the ministry said that it would keep child health centers open during the Passover holiday next week, when children A nurse prepares a measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine at the Rockland County Health Department in Haverstraw, Rockland County, New York, on April 5, 2019. (John Eisele / AFP)
"If everybody had been vaccinated as needed, 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 ultra-Orthodox in particular had "several pockets" within the community that did not vaccinate. He urged parents to take their children to clinics around the country that are kept open during the Passover holiday to administer the vaccinations.
The Health Ministry also urges the Israelis to ensure they are vaccinated before flying over the overseas Channel 13 reported Thursday
Israel has seen outbreak of measles in the past year, recording 3,600 cases between March 2018 and February 2019, according to the ministry.
Infections are mostly centered on the country's ultra-Orthodox community, where
In November, a 18-month-old toddler in Jerusalem died of the disease, the first recorded death from measles in Israel over the last 15 years. A month later, an 82-year-old woman became the second death.
In New York, too, officials are struggling to contain a swelling number of cases of measles centered in ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods while battling lawsuits over their efforts to require vaccinations. Health officials have confirmed 329 cases of measles in New York City and 184 cases in the nearby Rockland County since the outbreak began in October.
The measles cases in Rockland and in Brooklyn have been traced to unvaccinated members of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community who traveled to Israel. Orthodox Jewish leaders say a small fraction of the vaccine's opponents in the community has allowed the spread of the disease.
AP has contributed to this report.