Rotem Amitai, 43, died Tuesday, according to Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva, Israel. Amitai had traveled from New York to Tel Aviv a few days before developing a fever in March, but it’s not clear whether she was infected on a flight, in New York or in Israel, according to Israel’s Ministry of Health.
Amitai was vaccinated against the disease as a child, but like many people her age around the world, she received only one dose of the vaccine. She was otherwise healthy before contracting measles.
“Rotem was a wonderful woman and a devoted mother. We are grieving and mourning her passing before her time,” her family said in a statement.
Amitai’s death from measles was confirmed by the Emek Hefer Regional Council, a local governmental authority in Israel.
“El Al mourns the death of a member of the airline’s flight crew. We have taken steps to have our air crews inoculated,” the airline said in a statement. “We extend our deepest condolences to the bereaved family and will continue to stand by them.”
Measles deaths are rare in Israel and the United States, but both places are experiencing outbreaks of the virus. Health authorities blame the measles outbreaks in recent years on people who refuse to get vaccinated.
There have been 4,300 cases of measles in Israel since March 2018.
“We have the reintroduction of a serious viral infection with a population that’s withholding the vaccine from their children, and now it’s spreading beyond that population,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University and an adviser on vaccines to the CDC.
One dose of the measles vaccine has been found to be about 93% effective. In 1989, children in the United States started receiving two doses, which is about 97% effective, according to the CDC.
It’s not known why most people who get measles recover fully while others have devastating complications.
About 1 out of every 1,000 children who gets measles will develop encephalitis, according to the CDC. This can lead to convulsions and leave a child deaf or with an intellectual disability.
Additionally, 1 or 2 out of 1,000 US children who get measles will die from it. Worldwide, the illness is fatal in 1 or 2 out of every 100 children.
CNN’s Amir Tal, Oren Liebermann and Minali Nigam contributed to this report.