A flight attendant from Israel is fighting for her life after contracting the measles. CNN reports that a 43-year-old woman is in a coma and battling encephalitis at a hospital in Israel. According to the report, the woman received one round of the MMR as a child. The news is a stark reminder to adults to check their immunity status to the measles.
In a report released by CNN, the unidentified flight attendant works for El Al an Israeli national airline. She worked on flights between New York and Israel. Due to her job, doctors do not know the location she contracted the virus. She might have contracted the virus in New York, Israel, or on the international flight.
On March 31, the woman developed a fever and went to the hospital. Shortly after her arrival at the hospital, she slipped into a coma. When she fell into the coma, she lost her ability to breathe on her own.
“She’s been in a deep coma for 10 days, and we’re now just hoping for the best,” said Dr. Itamar Grotto, associate director general of Israel’s Ministry of Health.
Immunization records for the woman indicate she only received one dose of the MMR vaccine. From the 1960s-1989, doctors gave children a single round of the MMR vaccine. A single dose of the vaccine provides children 93% immunity to the virus, and a second dose provides 97% immunity.
Therefore, health officials expressed concern by the announcement of the woman’s condition. Nearly all of the reported measles cases in the United States and Europe have occurred in unvaccinated people. The flight attendant’s illness is evidence the virus is spreading beyond the unvaccinated people.
“I knew this was going to happen sooner or later,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University and an adviser to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on vaccines. “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.”
For more than a year, the measles has ravaged Israel. Since April 2018, the country reports nearly 4,000 measles cases. The virus spread from Israel to New York. Two outbreaks in New York started in September 2018. The New York outbreaks remain on-going and uncontained.
While anti-vaxxers believe the measles is a benign childhood illness, there are severe complications to the virus. Serious complications include swelling of the brain, pneumonia, blindness, hearing loss, high fevers, and death. There is no way to know who will develop a severe complication.
The flight attendant had no underlying health conditions and was completely healthy. Her coma is an example of the seriousness of the measles.With measles spreading around the world, adults need to verify their immunity status. Adults born after 1957 and before 1989 are most at risk for contracting the measles virus. If an adult only received one round of the MMR, they should contact their doctor to verify their immunity.
For adults that do not have access to immunization records, a titer test can determine immunity. According to the CDC, international travelers, healthcare workers, and women of child-bearing age should all ensure they have received two doses of the MMR.
Finally, measles is here and not going away. Make sure you verify your immunization status to stay safe!
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*Katie Joy is a columnist and hosts Without A Crystal Ball on Patheos Non-Religious Channel. She writes articles on parenting, disability advocacy, debunking pseudoscience, atheism, and crimes against women and children.
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