Health Ministry warns of measles infections at nightclub and mall
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Health Ministry warns of measles infections at nightclub and mall

Unvaccinated partygoers in Tel Aviv and shoppers at mall near Ashdod advised to get immunized, as Israel struggles to contain outbreak of deadly virus

Illustrative. Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR) vaccine vials, with syringe. (iStock by Getty Images/ Andrey Popov)
Illustrative. Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR) vaccine vials, with syringe. (iStock by Getty Images/ Andrey Popov)

The Health Ministry on Thursday warned the public of possible exposure to a measles patient over the past week at a Tel Aviv nightclub and at a shopping mall near Ashdod, as Israel continues to struggle to contain a months-long outburst of the potentially deadly disease.

The ministry said partygoers at the Metro nightclub in central Tel Aviv may have contracted the measles virus on Friday night, from March 8 at 11 p.m. until March 9 at 3 a.m.

In a separate statement hours later, the ministry said a measles patient had been in a shopping mall at the Ad Halom Interchange, just outside the city of Ashdod, on Monday between 8:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.

The statements call on anyone who was at any of the two locations at the specified times, was born after 1957 and has not received both doses of the measles vaccine to consult as soon as possible with medical officials.

“There is no danger of measles infection in the specified locations beyond the hours mentioned,” the ministry said.

There has been an international resurgence of the nearly eliminated virus. Israel has seen a renewed outbreak of measles since March of last year, with at least 2,857 cases reported and at least two deaths. Infections have mostly centered on the country’s ultra-Orthodox community, where inoculation rates have generally been low.

Illustrative: A patient getting a measles vaccination in Jerusalem in November, 2018. (courtesy Health Ministry)

Recent years have seen a growing trend of parents refusing to vaccinate their children, due to various discredited claims that the life-saving practice is dangerous.

On Monday, the Education Ministry said it would require all students and teachers going on yearly trips to Poland — visiting concentration camps built by the Nazis during the Nazi Germany occupation in World War II and other Holocaust-related and Jewish sites — to get vaccinated before the trip.

The order followed a case last month where an unvaccinated teenage girl was found to have measles during the trip, causing it to be halted while a nurse flew in from Israel to immunize 35 unvaccinated students.

For adults the highly contagious disease is usually fairly benign. However, in infants, young children, the elderly and the immunocompromised, it can be deadly and can have several severe complications, including pneumonia and encephalitis. In rare cases, a deadly inflammation of the brain can occur years after recovery from the disease.

According to the World Health Organization, measles is believed to have caused 110,000 deaths worldwide in 2017. The vaccine is thought to have saved over 21 million lives just since the start of the century.

In October, Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman warned that he will consider taking measures against families who refuse to vaccinate their children. In December, a health official forbade 14 children in the country’s north from attending kindergarten because their parents refused to vaccinate them. The decision marked the first-ever such order given by a state medical official.

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