Ten child cancer patients at Ichilov Hospital’s hemato-oncological ward were exposed to measles by a fellow patient and have been called in to receive emergency preventive care, it emerged on Monday.
The children will be given an injection of immunoglobulins on Wednesday.
The child with measles is a cancer patient from Ukraine who came to the ward for an appointment. Doctors noticed that he had symptoms of measles, and a laboratory test confirmed the diagnosis.
Officials at the Tel Aviv hospital said the child came into brief contact with 10 other patients in the ward. None of them have been hospitalized.
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This comes a day after the Health Ministry decided to restrict hospital visits for people not vaccinated against measles, and deny them any access to sensitive wards such as those that care for premature babies, intensive care and hematology units where patients tend to have weakened immune systems.
In recent months dozens of toddlers, children and babies born prematurely have been called in for preventive treatment, after coming into contact with people with measles while in the hospital.
Also on Monday, Health Ministry officials decided against moving up the age for a first dose of the vaccine from 12 months to nine months, due to the limited effectiveness of the vaccine at this age, and due to the need to repeat the vaccine at 12 months for babies who are vaccinated early.
However, Health Ministry officials responsible for areas with outbreaks may still decide to call in babies aged 9-11 months for an early vaccine. The decision was made in discussion with representatives of the health maintenance organizations, and the chairman of the pediatricians’ union, among other experts.
Currently, the vaccine is being recommended for babies between the ages of 6-11 months only before traveling abroad.
The Health Ministry decided on Sunday that further steps are necessary to contain the outbreak, and they are checking into the possibility of barring from schools any children who haven’t been vaccinated – which is a complicated step from a legal standpoint.
Two more pupils, 12th graders in the Golan Heights town of Katzrin, have been diagnosed with the illness, and according to reports on Sunday, these young women attended school last week with measles. The ministry has contacted their parents.
First-grade pupils at the Rimonim School in Ashdod were given their second doses of the vaccine after a teacher reported she had contracted the disease. It later emerged that the teacher does not have measles.
Since the start of the year 1,334 cases of measles have been reported, including one fatality, an 18-month-old girl. She was the first person to die of measles in Israel in 15 years.
In Jerusalem the number of cases has spiked, particularly in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods. The ministry has decided to expand its immunization program in the city particularly in these more vulnerable areas. Officials say an immunization drive over the last few weeks has raised immunity levels from just 55 percent to more than 80 percent of the population. But this is still a lower rate of immunization than elsewhere in the country, and lower than the 95 percent immunization rate needed for herd immunity, the level at which the disease stops being passed around.
The ministry is extending the hours of well-baby clinics and keeping them open from 8 A.M. until 8 P.M., and on Fridays from 8 A.M. until noon. In addition, an immunization program on wheels will continue to visit affected neighborhoods and urge the residents to get vaccinated.