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Flight Attendant in Coma After Contracting Measles

April 18, 2019 - 10:46 am
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New York – An El Al Airlines flight attendant is now in a coma and battling encephalitis after contracting measles. Israel's Ministry of Health says she may have contracted the disease in New York, in Israel, or on a flight between the two.

The 43-year-old woman was seemingly healthy before coming down with a fever March 31, CBS New York reports. Due to complications from measles that resulted in brain inflammation, she's now been in a coma for 10 days and needs a respirator because she can't breathe on her own.

The flight attendant, whose name has not been released, received only one dose of the measles vaccine as a child, according to reports. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two doses of the MMR vaccine is 97% effective in preventing measles, while one dose is about 93% effective. It's been standard practice to get two doses since 1989. However, experts say many people born before then are unsure if they're up to date.

"I have many parents that do not know what their vaccine status is," said Brooklyn pediatrician Dr. TJ Gold. "If they have records it would be wonderful to check and make sure you've had that second booster."

There have been 329 confirmed cases of measles in Brooklyn and Queens since October, as well as at least 186 cases in suburban Rockland County. New York City has declared a public health emergency over the outbreak and ordered mandatory vaccinations in one Brooklyn neighborhood for people who may have been exposed to the virus. Israel is also in the midst of an ongoing measles outbreak. Most of the New York cases are concentrated among members of ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities.

The news of the flight attendant's severe illness follows reports of a man on a trip from New York who was unknowingly infected with the measles, and after traveling to Michigan, spread the virus to 38 other people there.

Health officials are urging parents to get their young children vaccinated before traveling for the Passover and Easter holidays. The CDC recommends infants 6 to 11 months old should receive one dose of the vaccine; children 12 months and older should have received two.

--CBS News