Israel battles measles outbreak as infant dies of disease

Israel is grappling with one of its worst measles outbreak in decades, with over 1,200 cases reported since the beginning of 2018.

By Associated Press and World Israel News Staff

Israeli media reported Thursday that an 18-month-old baby died of complications of the disease at a Jerusalem hospital, the country’s first death from measles since 2003. The child was not vaccinated.

The outbreak comes as the World Health Organization has reported tens of thousands of measles cases across Europe.

Measles is a highly contagious disease and one of the leading causes of death worldwide in young children, according to the World Health Organization. It is easily prevented with a vaccine.

In Israel, several religious sects oppose vaccination, and the Health Ministry has stepped up a campaign to increase vaccination rates in unprotected communities in recent months.

The toddler’s parents are part of the Neturei Karta sect, a fringe religious group in Jerusalem’s Mea Shearim neighborhood, Times of Israel reported.

Because Neturei Karta is radically anti-Zionist, its adherents reject services provided by the State of Israel, including standard health care and early-childhood vaccination program.

Measles has reemerged as a significant health threat this year in Israel, with 753 known infections in Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox community, a statistic attributed to vaccination refusal.

The Health Ministry’s director-general, Moshe Bar Siman-Tov, on Thursday told parents to “go and get vaccinated,” calling it “the most important thing you can do to protect yourself from this contagious disease.”

Bar Siman-Tov also expressed fear in an interview with Hadashot news that bans on unvaccinated children in schools may be needed “to protect the other children.”

Europe has also been hit hard recently by measles, with over 41,000 incidents of infection and 37 deaths in the first half of 2018 according to the Times report, which quoted Prof. Shai Ashkenazi of the Israeli Pediatric Society.