A 43-year-old flight attendant remains hospitalized in a coma in Israel, suffering complications from measles, after she fell seriously ill following her El Al flight out of John F. Kennedy Airport last month, officials and reports say.
The woman, whose name has not been released, has been in the intensive care unit at a Tel Aviv hospital, fighting for her life since she got sick after flying from Queens to Israel on March 26. Israeli officials have confirmed there was a person with measles on that flight, though reports say they don't believe the virus was spread to any other people on the plane.
While measles symptoms typically aren't severe -- runny nose, sore throat, dry cough and fever -- doctors don't want people to fall victim to the misconception that it is a trivial and inconsequential disease. Measles can lead to problems like pneumonia, bronchitis, encephalitis -- and as the flight attendant's case has shown, it can threaten lives. Such complications are rare but do happen.
El Al asks any passengers and flight crew who may develop a fever to inform their doctors about potential exposure to a measles patient.
The United States is in the middle of a measles outbreak the likes of which hasn't been seen in decades -- and New York is at the epicenter of it. On Wednesday, the city's Board of Health voted to extend last week's emergency declaration ordering mandatory measles vaccinations in four Brooklyn ZIP codes.
The order, which was extended unanimously, will end when health officials declare the emergency is over, the city said. It applies to children ages 6 months and older and includes fines for noncompliance.
New York City has struggled to contain a measles outbreak centered in ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn while battling a lawsuit over its effort to require vaccinations. The affected ZIP codes, though -- 11205, 11206, 11211 and 11249 -- also cover the non-Orthodox, family-flooded neighborhood in Fort Greene, as well as parts of Bushwick and Williamsburg.
On Monday, the city closed the preschool portion of a private Jewish school because the school had failed to turn over vaccination and attendance records.
New York has confirmed 329 cases of measles since the outbreak began in October, accounting for well more than half of the more than 550 cases nationally. Rockland County has been particularly hard hit -- so much so that it took the unusual step of banning unvaccinated minors from public places.