Israel Warns Travelers About Measles Patient on Flight From India

Infants, pregnant women and people with immune deficiencies are particularly susceptible to the serious and contagious viral disease

File photo: An Air India Airbus A320neo plane.
\ Regis Duvignau/ REUTERS

A man with measles traveled from India to Israel last week and the Health Ministry has been warning high-risk passengers from his flight about possible contagion – particularly infants under a year old, pregnant women and people suffering from immune deficiencies.

On Sunday the Health Ministry’s Tel Aviv office was notified of a measles patient who had been on Air India flight AI139 that departed New Delhi at 4:30 P.M. on April 12 and landed at Ben-Gurion International Airport at 9:45 P.M. the same day. The ministry is calling on passengers who come down with a fever or a rash to go to a doctor immediately.

Measles is a serious, contagious viral disease that causes a characteristic rash and general malaise. The virus is spread through an infected person’s coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge or phlegm. The virus can remain in the air for several hours. The risk of an unvaccinated person getting sick after exposure is 90 percent.

Measles can cause serious respiratory and nervous system problems. Around a third of patients develop complications such as middle ear infection, diarrhea and corneal inflammation. Although it’s not common, pneumonia and brain inflammation can also occur. A very rare side effect that can occur up to 10 years after infection is a degenerative brain condition that causes irreversible damage to the central nervous system, leading to seizures and cognitive decline. The risk of complications is higher in children under the age of 5, adults over the age of 20 and patients with suppressed immune systems. For every 1,000 measles cases there is around one death.

Over the past decade there have been several measles outbreaks in Israel, mainly among unvaccinated children in the ultra-Orthodox community. The largest was from 2007 to 2008. There were also cases among various unvaccinated populations in 2011 and 2012.