An Israeli flight attendant has died after a months-long battle with measles.
Rotem Amitai was diagnosed with measles after flying from New York to Tel Aviv in late March. The 43-year-old was hospitalized in April and was diagnosed with meningoencephalitis, a complication of measles that affects the brain, the Times of Israel reports.
Amitai, a mother of three, died on Tuesday, according to Israeli news outlet Ynetnews. She worked for Israeli airline El Al.
“Rotem was a wonderful woman and a devoted mother,” her family said in a statement to Ynetnews. “We are grieving her premature departure.”
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As reported by CNN, Amitai developed a fever in March a few days after traveling from New York to Tel Aviv. It is unclear if she was infected with the virus on the flight, in New York or in Israel, the outlet says.
Amitai reportedly had been vaccinated with only one shot against measles instead of the two inoculations recommended for her age group, the Times of Israel reports.
According to the Jewish Press, Amitai’s employer El Al said the company is mourning the loss of a crew member and taking precautions to protect others.
“The company will continue to act on the matter in accordance with the health ministry’s guidelines,” the company said in a statement.
“Once the case became known, the company acted to vaccinate the company’s aircrews. The company shares the deep grief of the family and will continue to accompany the family.”
The U.S. is currently dealing with outbreaks of measles. In May, U.S. health officials said there were 971 cases of measles reported in the year so far, the highest tally in 27 years.
The new numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pushed the U.S. tally higher than the 963 illnesses reported for all of 1994. The nation last saw this many cases in 1992, when more than 2,200 were reported.
According to Dr. Karina Top, pediatric infectious disease specialist and investigator at the Canadian Center for Vaccinology, no vaccine is 100 per cent effective in every single person (though effectiveness depends on the vaccine).
For example, “the vaccine for measles… we know about 95 per cent of people will respond to the vaccine, but that leaves five per cent who don’t,” said Top.
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“We recommend a second dose of the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine to catch the people that didn’t respond (fully) to the first dose.”
For Top, the issue of effectiveness is even more of a reason to be vaccinated.
“For anyone, child or adult, if you’ve been vaccinated and you still get infected, (you’re) going to be much less sick than if you haven’t had the vaccine at all,” she said. “You’re much less likely to end up in hospital.”
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Ninety-nine out of 100 people who have had two doses should be immune to measles, mumps and rubella, Top said, but that does leave one person for whom the vaccine may not completely work.
“That’s why we want everyone who can get vaccinated to get vaccinated — so we can protect that one person.”
— With files from Meghan Collie