A flight attendant for Israel’s El Al airline became ill with the measles and is currently in a coma. Measles outbreaks in the US are directly linked to air travel, so the airline is taking this case very seriously.
The 43-year-old woman became ill with the disease after a flight on March 26 from New York to Tel Aviv. She is reportedly suffering from encephalitis, or swelling of the brain, a complication that affects one out of every 1,000 people who get the measles, and can result in hearing loss, brain damage, or death.
Israeli health officials are warning people who were aboard the flight — El Al flight 002 — to seek medical care if they develop a fever, runny nose, cough, bloodshot eyes, sensitivity to light, or a dark red rash. Symptoms may appear between six to 21 days after exposure. Unfortunately, measles is a highly contagious viral infection that can spread to between nine and 19 people who are not immunized, and airports and airplanes are an easy place for them to spread. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, up to 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected.”
Israel is recommending that all of the country’s airline staff be immunized as soon as possible, to guard against contracting the measles. “Our hearts are with our El Al sister who is battling this disease,” said Taylor Garland, a spokesperson for the Association of Flight Attendants, “and our thoughts are with her for a full recovery. Her suffering should give the public and crew urgency to heed the recommendations of health officials.”
If you don’t have an MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) proof of vaccination in your health records, make sure you talk to your family physician and get vaccinated before you travel internationally, domestically, or even walk around airports. According to the CDC, all six measles outbreaks in the US so far in 2019 have been linked to people carrying measles from foreign countries such as Israel and Ukraine, where there are large outbreaks of the disease.
H/T: The New York Times