Ministry of Health calls on Israeli airlines to vaccinate crews against measles


Israeli airline El Al recently vaccinated more than 250 crew members against measles, after the Ministry of Health ordered all local airlines to vaccinate all their staff while the highly contagious disease continues to spread.

The order of the Ministry of Health comes after a flight attendant and a boy of 10 years have suffered irreversible brain damage caused by the disease.

"Due to the continuing spread of measles and exposure of air crews, we recommend that all of your workers be vaccinated," said the Ministry of Health in a directive. "Make sure your workers receive two vaccinations and pay special attention to flight crews who come in contact with travelers."

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El Al, who had already started vaccinating his workers after hospitalization of the air hostess in coma after having contracted it by plane, set up a special dispensary to Ben Gurion airport and more than 250 crew members have been vaccinated, reported Channel 12.

The situation of El Al worker, hospitalized earlier this month with measles, has deteriorated, the Hebrew media reported on Thursday. She is in a coma, has been transferred to an isolated intensive care unit and has suffered suspected brain damage.

Illustration: Newborn with measles. (iStock from Getty Images / andriano_cz)

A young boy was also hospitalized at the Schneider Medical Center in Petah Tikva for alleged brain injury and is attached to a fan, according to TV.

El Al's 43-year-old flight attendant was admitted to the hospital two weeks ago after contracting the illness on a flight from New York. She suffers from meningoencephalitis – a complication of the measles virus that appears to be meningitis and encephalitis, respectively infections or inflammations of the brain wall and the brain itself.

The woman was working aboard the El AL 002 flight from the John F. Kennedy Airport in Tel Aviv on March 26, and the Ministry of Health advised all travelers on this flight to immediately seek medical attention. they develop symptoms of measles.

Blood tests revealed that the air hostess of El AL had been vaccinated with a single measles vaccine instead of the two recommended inoculations for her age group.

A sign warns people of measles in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of Williamsburg on April 10, 2019 in New York. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images / AFP)

"The damage is very serious," said Dr. Avi Lin, deputy director of the Meir Hospital, at the Ynet news site. "We continue to assess his situation every day and hope that everything will be fine."

Last week, an internal document from the Ministry of Health revealed that two million Israelis are partially or unvaccinated, according to Channel 13. This figure probably includes people born between 1957 and 1977 who need two injections of reminder to be fully vaccinated against the disease. did not mandate.

Measles is resurging in Israel mainly because of parents who do not inoculate their children. Nearly 45,000 children, mostly from ultra-Orthodox families, are not vaccinated at all, Channel 12 reported on Thursday. According to the report, these children are between 1 and 6 years old and the Ministry of Health will contact their children. families.

On Wednesday, the Ministry of Health announced that it would maintain child health centers during the Passover holiday next week, when children will be on vacation, to boost immunization rates.

A nurse prepares the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine at the Rockland County Health Department in Haverstraw, Rockland County, NY, on April 5, 2019. (Johannes Eisele / AFP)

"If everyone had been properly vaccinated, we would not be in this situation," said Professor Sigal Sedetzki, head of public health services at the Ministry of Health, Channel 12.

Sedetzki said the ultra-Orthodox in particular had "several pockets" in the community that do not vaccinate. He urged parents to take their children to clinics across the country that are kept open during the Passover holidays to carry out the vaccination.

The Ministry of Health is also urging Israelis to ensure that they are vaccinated before flying abroad, Channel 13 reported.

Israel has had a measles epidemic in the past year, recording 3,600 cases between March 2018 and February 2019, according to the ministry.

Infections mainly affected the country's ultra-orthodox community, where inoculation rates were generally lower than those of the rest of the population.

In November, an 18-month-old toddler in Jerusalem died of the disease. This is the first measles death in Israel recorded in the last 15 years. One month later, an 82-year-old woman became the second victim.

Also in New York, officials are struggling to contain an increasing number of measles cases in ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods while prosecuting their efforts to demand immunizations. Health officials have confirmed 329 cases of measles in New York and 184 cases in nearby Rockland County since the start of the outbreak in October.

The measles cases in Rockland and Brooklyn were attributed to unvaccinated members of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community who traveled to Israel. Orthodox Jewish leaders say that a small faction of vaccine opponents in the community has allowed the disease to spread.

AP contributed to this report.

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