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Measles outbreak in Israel

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Last Updated on November 8, 2018

The 2018 measles outbreak in Israel. The latest update.

Almost a year since the 2018 outbreak, the number of infected people in Israel has jumped to over 2,700 cases with more than 900 total hospitalizations.  Measles claimed another death this week when an 82 year old woman died in Jerusalem.  In stark contrast, only 40 cases of measles were diagnosed in 2017.

Who should be inoculated against measles?

  1. Babies aged 12 months
  2. Children in the first grade
  3. Adults who have never had measles or never had the measles vaccine (2 shots)
  4. Adults born between 1957 – 1977 who are traveling abroad
  5. Babies traveling abroad age 6 – 12 months

The Hebrew word for measles: חצבת – Hatzevet

Measles is a contagious disease that can spread through contact with infected mucus and saliva. An infected person can release the infection into the air when they cough or sneeze.

Measles symptoms

Measles signs and symptoms appear around 10 to 14 days after exposure to the virus. Signs and symptoms of measles typically include:

  • Fever
  • Dry cough
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis)
  • Tiny white spots with bluish-white centers on a red background found inside the mouth on the inner lining of the cheek — also called Koplik’s spots
  • A skin rash made up of large, flat blotches that often flow into one another

Contact a doctor immediately if you suspect you have measles.

measles outbreak israel
Typical measles rash

Effects of measles

About one child out of every 1,000 who get measles will develop encephalitis (swelling of the brain) that can lead to convulsions and can leave the child deaf or with intellectual disability.

The measles vaccine

Immunizations are optional and at this time are not legislated. To prevent measles outbreaks in Israel, the Ministry of Health suggests that every child be immunized.

The measles vaccine is given together with mumps, rubella and varicella. In some countries the inoculation is known as the “four-in-one”.

Where to get the measles vaccine

Depending on your age, if you have not received a measles vaccine and you come into contact with an infected person, arrange a visit at one of the vaccination clinics  to receive a measles vaccine within 72 hours of contact to prevent infection or at Tipat Halav the Family Health Clinics around the country.

Treating measles

There is no prescription medication to treat measles. The virus and symptoms typically disappear within two to three weeks. However, your doctor may recommend:

  • acetaminophen to relieve fever and muscle aches
  • rest to help boost your immune system
  • plenty of fluids (six to eight glasses of water a day)
  • humidifier to ease a cough and sore throat
  • vitamin A supplements

The Israel Ministry of Health (MOH)

The Israel MOH has taken the following measures

-Extended the vaccination campaign for the prevention of measles in Jerusalem which includes keeping Tipat Halav family care centers open in the evenings as well.

-The campaign is coordinated with the HMOs and municipal bodies. So far, the percentage of vaccination in un-vaccinated “pockets” has risen from 55 percent to more than 80 percent.

-Added a mobile unit that patrols the target neighborhoods in order to vaccinate on site.

-Coordination within the communities with relatively low vaccination coverage rates.

-Hiring new nurses and adding new nurse positions in the Jerusalem district and helping nurses with additional manpower and male/female healthcare students.

-Restricting un-vaccinated visitors’ from entering sensitive areas hospitals, such as the ward for premature babies, intensive care, oncology, and hemato-oncology.

-Considering the issue of restricting entry to schools to un-vaccinated individuals who could put the public at risk.

-Because of the limited efficiency of the vaccine at an early age, and the necessity to repeat the vaccination at 12 months of age, it was decided to keep the age of the first vaccination as is, except in specific outbreak centers, which will be under the sole discretion of the district doctor of the Ministry of Health.

According to an article in the Jerusalem Post, parents who refuse to vaccinate their children could be fined NIS 2,000 if a bill approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday, November 18th, 2018 becomes law.

The bill is meant to regulate the state’s treatment of anti-vaccine families, and will allow the Health Ministry to keep un-vaccinated children out of schools when there is a concern of an outbreak.

The proposal includes requiring the Health Ministry to keep track of which children have been immunized, according to the ministry’s recommendations, and to send a warning to parents of those who have not been inoculated.

If the parents do not have their children vaccinated after the warning, they will be invited to a meeting to explain to them the importance of vaccination. If they still refuse, they will have to sign a document saying so. At that point, any parents who do not inoculate their children can lose income tax rebates valued at up to NIS 2,000.

Israel travel warning

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a warning to travelers to Israel; travelers to Israel should make sure that they are vaccinated against measles with the MMR vaccination.  The warning continues…

  • People who cannot show that they were vaccinated or are otherwise protected against measles should get vaccinated before traveling to Israel:
    • Infants (6 through 11 months of age) should have 1 dose of MMR vaccine.
    • Adults and children over 1 year of age should have 2 doses of MMR vaccine given on or after the first birthday and separated by at least 28 days.
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.

Disclaimer: Please note that this article is for information purposes only and should not replace medical advice from a qualified clinician or instructions from the Israel Ministry of Health.

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