Stewardess on New York Flight Fell Into a Coma After Catching the Measles

April 19, 2019 Updated: April 19, 2019

A flight attendant traveling on a New York-bound route lost consciousness shortly after contracting a virus that gave her a skin rash and fever, according to officials.

CNN reported that the 43-year-old woman developed a fever on March 31 and entered hospital that same day. Health professionals diagnosed her with encephalitis, which can develop if the brain becomes infected during the rash phase of the measles, according to the Encephalitis Society.

Israel’s Ministry of Health believes the El Al Airlines employee might have become ill while in New York, in Israel, or during the flight.

“She’s been in a deep coma for 10 days, and we’re now just hoping for the best,” ministry Associate Director General Dr. Itamar Grotto told CNN.

The woman is unable to breathe on her own and is being assisted by a respirator at Meir Medical Center’s intensive care unit in Kfar Saba, 14 miles northeast of the Israeli capital of Tel Aviv.

The ministry previously announced that a passenger infected with the measles had boarded another flight from New York.

“El Al flight 002 departed from [John F.] Kennedy Airport, New York City on March 26, 2019, and arrived in Israel on March 27,” the ministry said in a public statement dated April 4. “Passengers and flight crew: if any of you develop a fever, you need to notify your medical doctor of exposure to a measles patient.”

According to CBS New York, the passenger had traveled to Michigan where he allegedly spread the virus to 38 people. The ministry urged passengers on that flight who believe they may have contracted the measles to see their doctor.

“The Ministry of Health emphasizes that even if you only suspect you developed symptoms of illness and you were aboard this specific flight, you need to immediately contact your general practitioner (GP)—preferably call your GP over the phone, and you need to minimize staying in public spaces (e.g. schools, buses, shopping malls, etc.),” the ministry said.

New York City declared a public health emergency on April 9 over a measles outbreak centered in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community and ordered mandatory vaccinations in the neighborhood.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the controversial order amid what he said was a “measles crisis” in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg section, where more than 250 people have gotten measles since September. Officials blamed the outbreak on “anti-vaxxers.”

The order applies to anyone living, working, or going to school in the neighborhood and requires all unvaccinated people at risk of exposure to the virus to get the vaccine, including children over six months old.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.