Flight Attendant Contracts Measles And Slips Into A Coma

Flight Attendant Contracts Measles And Slips Into A Coma

The attendant developed a fever on March 31 and was admitted to a hospital on the same day. She had no history of any health complications and had also got a dose of measles vaccination as a child.

Measles is in the news these days due to many parents around the word not vaccinating their children. Globally, governments are issuing strict warnings about the disease and the need for vaccination. In the latest case, an Israeli flight attendant working for El Al, the Israeli national airline, contracted the disease and went into a coma reports CNN. It is not exactly known how the flight attendant got the disease but there is speculation that she may have got the virus in her home country itself or New York, or on a flight between the two destinations. The attendant was also perfectly healthy and had no other health complications. Additionally, she was vaccinated as a child.   Following the measles, the 43-year-old woman has also got encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain. It's not uncommon for a person with measles to also get encephalitis as this is a complication of the virus. Health authorities do not believe that she spread the virus to anyone else on the flights. Dr. Itamar Grotto, Associate Director General of Israel's Ministry of Health, said, "She's been in a deep coma for 10 days, and we're now just hoping for the best."



It was on March 31 that the flight attendant had a fever and she was admitted to a hospital on the very same day. The flight attendant is currently having difficulty breathing and has been put on the respirator under the intensive care unit at the Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba, near Tel Aviv.  Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University and an adviser to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention on vaccines, said, "I knew this was going to happen sooner or later."



He added, "We have the reintroduction of a serious viral infection with a population that's withholding the vaccine from their children, and now it's spreading beyond that population." There have a number of cases in the US and Israel of children not being vaccinated and stoking fears of a major outbreak. While the flight attendant was vaccinated as a child, her vaccine wasn't perfect. Like many other people of her generation across the world, the flight attendant got only one dose of the measles vaccine.


However, it was later discovered that one dose of the vaccine was effective only to the extent of 93 percent. Since 1989 children have been given two doses, which is about 97 percent effective, according to the CDC. While some people fully recover after a measles attack, but others like the flight attendant, it can be lethal. Encephalitis will develop in  1 out of every 1,000 children who get measles reports the CDC. This can hamper a child's growth as it can lead to intellectual disability, and convulsions leading to deafness.  



In addition, 1 or 2 out of 1,000 US children who get measles will die from it. Across the world, every 1 or 2 children will be fatally affected due to measles. Many fatal cases of measles have been reported from the US in the past two years. In Israel, a toddler and an elderly woman died last year of the disease. In the European Union, 35 people died of the disease in 2018, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.



As many as  3,920 cases of measles were reported from March 2018 through April 11 in Israel, said Grotto. In the same duration, the US has seen less than 1,000 cases. In Europe, a whopping 34,383 cases of measles was recorded from April 2018 to April 2019, according to World Health Organization data. In the past 12 months, Ukraine reported as many as 72,000 measles cases, more than any other country in the world in the period. This was followed by Madagascar and India with more than 69,000 and 60,000 cases, respectively.



Grotto said during the Jewish New Year last fall there was a surge of measles cases in Israel since a large number of ultra-Orthodox Israelis traveled to Ukraine on religious pilgrimages. About 85 percent to 90 percent of Israeli measles cases have been among ultra-Orthodox Jews. Israeli public health authorities have increased vaccine clinic hours, opened mobile clinics in religious neighborhoods and taken out ads in newspapers in religious communities.

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