Measles reported at prestigious Tel Aviv school, exposing thousands

The Health Ministry issued a call for all students to report to local clinics for measles vaccinations.

By BEN BRESKY
February 22, 2019 12:23
2 minute read.
A vial of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and an information sheet.

A vial of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and an information sheet is seen at a hospital. (photo credit: REUTERS/BRIAN SNYDER)

 
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A student in the Alliance school in North Tel Aviv was discovered to have the measles, according to Israel Army radio.

The Health Ministry has warned that thousands of students were exposed to the potentially deadly virus that has resurfaced in Israel since late last year. They issued a call for all students to report to local clinics for measles vaccinations.
The Health Ministry's official website on the outbreak reports that "from March 2018 through the end of January 2019, as a result of the disease being imported to Israel by a small number of tourists and visitors, who later infected unvaccinated population, more than 3,400 individuals have been infected with measles."

In November 2018 a one-and a half year-old baby from the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood in Jerusalem died from the disease.

In the 2017-2018 school year, the percentage of first graders in Jerusalem who were vaccinated against measles was 96.5%, according to Health Ministry data. Most people receive vaccinations as children to prevent the highly-contagious disease, which causes itchy red bumps or rashes all over the skin, from spreading.


The prestigious Alliance high school traces its roots back to 1892 and the Hovevei Tzion group of early Zionist pioneers. The modern version of the school opened in 1958 and currently has 1,500 students and 200 teachers and also serves as a study center of the Open University .


Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman has pushed for increased vaccination, calling for them to be a prerequisite before any child is accepted into school. Ninety percent of the cases reported in 2018 resulted from people who had not been vaccinated or came into contact with unvaccinated persons, the ministry said.


“As is know, vaccines are a cornerstone of the prevention of dangerous infectious diseases, and in public health they make a decisive contribution to the health of children and the population in general,” Litzman wrote. “Children who are not vaccinated not only endanger themselves but those around them as well, because they break mass immunity. This risk rises when a child is in an educational setting with other children because of the relative density, the closed spaces and the nature of children.”


Litzman further pointed out immunization rates are generally high in Israel but there has been a recent downward trend, adding the immunization effectiveness is directly proportional to the percentage of population that is vaccinated.


The measles vaccine is comprised of an attenuated virus subcutaneously injected; it is a combined MMR/MMRV serum against measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella. In Israel, it is not possible to get vaccinated solely against the measles virus, the Ministry stated.


In rare cases, an individual could have an allergy making it medically dangerous to receive a vaccine injection, however most of those reported to have refused vaccinations for themselves or their children stem from vaccine skeptics who fear they can cause other medical problems. The most well-known is the case of Andrew Wakefield, a former British doctor whose now debunked  1998 research paper drew a connection between the MMR vaccine and autism. His papers have since been withdrawn and retracted.

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