El Al stewardess, mother of 3, dies of measles

Rotem Amitai likely contracted the disease from a passenger on a flight from New York to Israel five months ago.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Rotem Amitai, the 43-year-old El Al stewardess who was infected with the measles on a flight from New York to Tel Aviv in late March, has died.

It has been reported that she only received one measles shot instead of the recommended two. A second shot brings resistance to the disease to 97 percent.

Several days after the flight landed on March 27 from Kennedy Airport, Amitai, a mother of three, was brought to Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba unconscious, with respiratory failure.

She was put in an isolation wing of the intensive care unit, so that she would not infect other patients, and was given all the peripheral treatments possible to alleviate the symptoms of the disease.

However, within weeks, scans showed that there was widespread injury to her brain, and she was kept anesthetized and on a respirator.

With no progress in her condition, Amitai was brought to the Loewenstein Hospital in Raanana. Although the medical center prides itself on having the highest concentration of rehabilitation specialists in the country, her situation did not improve.

More recently, she was taken to Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikvah, where her death was recorded on Tuesday.

“El Al bows its head with the death of the El Al stewardess. After the incident, the company acted to vaccinate all its air crews. The company will continue to act on this issue according to the instructions of the Health Ministry. The company participates in the deep grief of the family and will continue to accompany the family,” El Al said in a statement.

A Channel 13 report in April revealed that over two million Israelis are either completely unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated against measles, a virulent disease that has one in 10 patients hospitalized, according to the Ministry of Health.

A small but significant number of parents refuse to vaccinate their children because they believe it can do them more harm than good – a belief that is completely debunked by scientists and medical experts.

This includes people in several ultra-Orthodox communities in the New York area and in Israel, even during the measles outbreak in 2018 that infected several thousand people throughout the United States and Israel.

However, there are millions of people around the world who as infants received only one shot, rather than two, against the disease because doctors believed at the time was that it was enough. In the U.S., this includes anyone born between 1957  and 1989. Those born before 1957 are assumed to have a natural immunity to the disease.

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The American  Center for Disease Control (CDC) says that in most cases, people who have been vaccinated once are sufficiently protected. According to the Pharmacy Times, one shot provides effective protection for 94 percent of cases, while a second vaccination as mentioned, provides 97 percent protection.

There is one group of up to 900,000 people born between 1963 and 1967 which may have been given an inactivated (killed) measles vaccine that has been proven ineffective.

If they know that they were given this kind of vaccination, the CDC recommends that they get re-vaccinated with at least one dose of the live, attenuated measles vaccine.