A flight attendant for Israeli flag carrier El Al is said to be in a serious condition in a Tel Aviv hospital after contracting measles during a 10-hour flight from New York JFK to Ben Gurion Airport in Israel. The flight attendant worked the flight on the 26th March but Israel’s Ministry of Health only released a statement late yesterday afternoon. The airline has so far declined to comment on the matter.
The Ministry of Health issued an alert warning both passengers and flight crew who were onboard El Al flight LY002 on the 26th March to contact a general practitioner immediately if they even suspect they are developing any measles-related symptoms. The notice goes on to advise anyone who suspects they may have measles to make contact with health services over the telephone in order to avoid exposing other people to the virus.
While the Ministry of Health’s statement does not mention whether the patient is a member of flight crew or a passenger, it’s believed that the patient is a female flight attendant in her forties. She is understood to be unconscious and fighting for her life with the aid of a respirator.
The Times of Israel claims the flight attendant was inoculated against measles but still managed to contract the deadly virus.
According to the paper, Israel is in the midst of a measles outbreak with over 3,600 measles cases recorded since March 2018. It’s noted that the outbreak has generally been confined to Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community who are less likely to have been vaccinated against measles.
A smaller outbreak of measles in Hong Kong has prompted bosses at Cathay Pacific to explicitly allow for the first time unvaccinated flight attendants to start wearing surgical masks in an attempt to protect themselves from the virus. The airline decided to permit the wearing of masks after a flight attendant and pilot contracted measles – both are said to have recovered.
Although the sight of seeing people going about their everyday lives while wearing face masks is fairly common in South East Asia, the practice is generally prohibited for flight attendants because it can frighten passengers and heighten concerns about onboard germs and viruses.
Flight crew are said to be particularly susceptible to contracting measles because many cases are concentrated around transport hubs. Executives at Hong Kong airport say they are working closely with health authorities to contain the outbreak and have stepped up cleaning and disinfection throughout the airport. A vaccination station has also been opened for staffers.
Measles is the most contagious of all infectious diseases according to the Israeli Ministry of Health. One in every 1,000 measles patients may die of the virus and an unvaccinated person is said to have a 90% chance of contracting the virus if they come in contact with another person who has measles. It can take 6-10 days for symptoms to appear but during that time someone who has measles is still contagious.
Symptoms include a high fever, a runny nose, cough and sensitivity to light. After around four days, a dark red rash may also appear – initially on the neck area although this will quickly spread.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.