Amid Measles Outbreak in Israel, Two High School Students and a Teacher Contract Disease

The cases follow the death of an unvaccinated baby in Jerusalem on Thursday as the Health Ministry is calling on parents to vaccinate their children immediately

The Rimonim Elementary School in Ashdod, where the teacher who contracted measles works.
Ilan Assayag

Two female high school seniors came last week to school while sick with  measles, the Katzrin Regional Council stated Sunday. 

According to a statement by the council, the students- who were not vaccinated- came to school ill and after a medical examination they were diagnosed with the disease. Israel's Health Ministry was updated accordingly and parents of students in the school were informed as well. 

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Some 500 high school students attend the two high schools in Katzrin. 

Earlier Sunday, a school teacher from an elementary school in Ashdod also discovered that she is ill with measles. The teacher went through checkups and discovered last Thursday that she has symptoms of the illness. Asides from working at the elementary school, the teacher was also employed by three other schools. 

The Education Ministry said it has been working with the Health Ministry on a response and that the Health Ministry would be vaccinating any students at the school by the end of the day Sunday, if they had not yet received a vaccination.

The Health Ministry called on all parents whose children have not been vaccinated to do so immediately. Last month, Health Ministry Director General Itamar Grotto said 95 percent of Israelis are vaccinated against measles, but there are some population groups for which vaccination rates are lower than 90 percent.

Last week, a one-and-a-half-year-old child from an insular ultra-Orthodox sect in Jerusalem died of measles in the first such death since a measles outbreak that began in the country in March. The baby had not been registered with the Interior Ministry or for baby care.

In recent weeks, doctors in Jerusalem hospitals warned that they were losing control over the outbreak and raised the prospect that complications from the illness could turn fatal. According to Health Ministry data, in the first ten months of 2018, there were 1,287 reported cases of measles in the country, about 60 percent of which were in the Jerusalem area. The Health Ministry has reached out to ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods of the city, hoping to increase the vaccination rates there.

In addition to the Jerusalem area, where 753 cases have been reported, there have been 213 cases reported in the Safed district, 89 in the Petah Tikva district, 84 in the Tel Aviv district, and smaller numbers elsewhere, including Acre, Ramle, the Sharon region, Afula, Rehovot, Be'er Sheva, Haifa and Ashkelon. In October alone, 621 people were infected. Most have been children between the ages of one and four. There have also been outbreaks abroad.

Measles, a serious contagious viral disease, causes a rash, runny nose, sore throat and redness of the eyes. It can also cause serious complications to the respiratory and nervous systems. About a third of patients develop complications such as ear infections, diarrhea or eye infections. Rarer complications include pneumonia or encephalitis.