Israeli backpacker, 22, dies from allergic reaction in Colombia

Traveler reportedly told eatery of allergy to dairy and was reassured the food was safe; friend flagged down passing car to rush him to hospital, but he died days later

An illustrative image of an anaphylaxis auto injector for allergy reactions (CarrieCaptured; iStock by Getty Images)
An illustrative image of an anaphylaxis auto injector for allergy reactions (CarrieCaptured; iStock by Getty Images)

An Israeli backpacker has died in Colombia due to a severe allergic reaction at a restaurant serving dairy foods, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement Tuesday morning.

The 22-year-old man, from Jerusalem, was on a tour of the South American country with friends last Wednesday when he was reportedly served a dish that contained cheese despite being assured it didn’t have milk products.

He was rushed to the hospital in serious condition, where doctors tried for several days to stabilize his condition, but he eventually died on Monday night, the ministry said.

The ministry said Israeli embassy staff in Bogota have assisted the family — who traveled to Colombia and had been at the man’s hospital bedside — over the past few days.

The ministry described the man’s condition as an allergy to lactose, which is often confused with dairy allergy. While the two share some symptoms and are caused by many of the same foods, lactose intolerance is non-fatal digestive disorder, while dairy allergies affect the immune system and can cause severe or even deadly reactions.

Yisrael Bichler, 27, from New York, a volunteer at the Chabad House in Medellín, told Walla news that the man had been at the Chabad House two weeks earlier and was “very friendly, and offered to help out.”

He said the tourist had eaten at a hostel frequented by Israelis and made it clear he had a milk allergy. According to Bichler, the man was assured that there was no concern with the food that he was served, but it apparently did contain lactose. Although the man was carrying an emergency injection pen, he was unable to be saved, Bichler said.

As the man began to lose consciousness, a friend supported him, exited the hostel with him and tried to hail a taxi but was unable to find one. As they began to make their way toward the hospital, the friend eventually flagged down a passing car and asked the driver to take them to the medical center, Bichler said.

His remains will arrive in Israel on Thursday, the Ynet news site reported.

In 2018, an Israeli woman died during a trip to India from a suspected milk allergy.

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