An El Al Airlines flight attendant is reportedly in the hospital after a person infected with measles boarded a flight from New York City to Tel Aviv, Israel, on March 26, according to Times of Israel.
Reports suggest that the flight attendant, who was vaccinated, contracted measles and is in serious condition. An El Al representative told INSIDER that she did not have enough information to comment on the flight attendant’s current health status.
Israel’s Ministry of Health confirmed that a measles patient was onboard El Al flight 002, which departed from John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. Ministry officials cautioned all passengers who were on the flight to notify doctors about their exposure to measles — especially if they develop a fever.
“The Ministry of Health emphasizes that even if you only suspect you developed symptoms of illness and you were aboard this specific flight, you need to immediately contact your general practitioner — preferably call your GP over the phone, and you need to minimize staying in public spaces (e.g. schools, buses, shopping malls, etc.),” the Ministry of Health said in a press release.
Measles is caused by a virus and spreads through the air after an infected person coughs or sneezes. It’s so contagious that 90% of non-immune individuals who get close to an infected person are also likely to become infected, according to the CDC. Symptoms usually begin with a fever, cough, and rash. In one or two of every 1,000 cases in children, complications such as pneumonia or brain swelling can be fatal.
The MMR vaccine can prevent measles, but an increasing number of people have chosen not to vaccinate their children, resulting in a 30% increase of measles cases around the world in 2018, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
There is an ongoing measles outbreak in Israel: Over 3,400 people have been infected with measles there since March 2018, according to Israel’s Ministry of Health. The CDC recommends that visitors make sure they have the MMR vaccine before traveling there.
Three ongoing measles outbreaks are also affecting people in New York State, New York City, and New Jersey. The outbreaks, which began in 2018, were primarily caused by travelers bringing measles back from Israel, according to the CDC. The agency has linked other US outbreaks to travelers returning from the Ukraine and Philippines.