Rotem Amitai was a flight attendant for El Al Airlines in Israel who has died from complications of measles after contracting the disease while on a flight from New York. Amitai, a mother of three, was 43. Amitai, who had been ill since March, died on August 13, the airline said.
“Rotem was a wonderful person and a dedicated mother,” her family said in a statement to the Times of Israel.
Amitai was working on El Al Flight 002 from New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport to Tel Aviv, Isarel, on March 26, when she apparently contracted the highly contagious disease. Amitai developed symptoms, including high fever and rash, upon her return to Israel, YNet News reports.
El Al said Amitai had been vaccinated with only one of two necessary shots, and the airline has updated its policy to immediately ensure that all of its staff members are vaccinated against the disease, the news site reports. According to The Washington Post, Amitai was given the vaccine as a child in the 1970s, and at that time, patients were only given one dose of the vaccine, which may not be strong enough to prevent the disease.
Amitai Fell Into a Coma After Suffering Respiratory Failure as Her Condition Deteroiated
Rotem Amitai was hospitalized in late March upon returning to Israel and her condition quickly deteriorated, according to her family and officials. She wa in the intensive care unit at Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba and then was transferred to Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva, where she remained in the ICU for several months until her death on Tuesday, August 13.
According to her family, Amitai slipped into a coma after suffering respiratory failure and she was on a ventilator for the final months of her life. She was unconscious for most of her time in the hospital, according to officials.
“Rotem was a wonderful woman and a devoted mother. We are grieving her premature departure,” said her family in a statement, according to YNetNews.
She Died as a Result of Meningoencephalitis, a Complication of Measles
Rotem Amitai died of meningoencephalitis, a complication of measles, according to The Times of Israel.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, meningoencephalitis occurs in about 0.1 percent of measles cases. Meningoencephalitis is the inflammation of the brain and surrounding tissues and is similar to having both encephalitis and meningitis.
The Columbia University Department of Neurology says, “The layers of thin tissue that cover your brain are called meninges. An infection in these tissues is called meningitis. When your brain becomes inflamed or infected, the problem is called encephalitis. If both the meninges and the brain appear to be involved, the condition is called meningoencephalitis. Some cases of meningitis and encephalitis are caused by bacteria, fungi, and other types of germs. But many are caused by viruses, and many kinds of viruses can be to blame.”
Amitai Was the Founder of a Fashion Boutique & Worked in Marketing & Communications Before Returning to El Al as a Flight Attendant in 2015
Rotem Amitai, who also spelled her named Rotem Amitay and Rotem Amitay-Zamir, was the founder and owner of Marmalade, a fashion boutique in Kfar Saba, Israel. She ran the boutique from 2006 to 2015, according to her Linkedin profile. “I founded a fashion boutique featuring young Israeli designers and a unique import collection of a women’s fashion and accessories line,” she wrote.
Amitai previously worked in marketing and communications and business development at SkyBot Ltd., a robotics startup, from 2001 to 2002 in Tel Aviv, and for Galcomm from 2002 to 2005.
While in college, Amitai had worked as a flight attendant for El Al Israel Airlines from 1999 to 2001, according to her Linkedin profile. On Facebook, Amitai said she returned to work as a flight attendant for the airline again in 2015.
Amitai went to college in the United States, graduating from Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont, in 1999 with a degree in business administration, tourism and travel services marketing operations. She also earned her master’s degree in marketing communications, public relations and advertising from Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 2002.
Amitai said on Facebook that she lived in Avihayil, Hamerkaz, Israel, and was originally from Kfar Saba.
Her Friend Says ‘Rotem Loved Life & Life Loved Her’
Rotem’s friend and fellow flight attendant, Ayelet Ziv, wrote on Facebook, that she was a “real doll,” who “loved life and life loved her.”
In a statement to the Jewish Press, El Al said, ““the company is bowing its head over the death of a member of El Al’s aircrew. The company will continue to act on the matter in accordance with the health ministry’s guidelines. Once the case became known, the company acted to vaccinate the company’s aircrews. The company shares the deep grief of the family and will continue to accompany the family.”
“El Al mourns the death of a member of the airline’s flight crew,” El Air added in a statement to CBS News. “We have taken steps to have our air crews inoculated.”
There Have Been More Reported Cases of the Measles Virus, Which Is Highly Preventable Through Vaccinations, in the First Half of 2019 Than in Any Other Year Since 2016, the WHO Says
The World Health Organization says there have been more reported cases of the measles virus in the first half of 2019 than in any other year since 2016, The Washington Post reports. Measles is highly preventable with a vaccine. “The United States has reported its highest measles case count in 25 years,” the WHO said.
According to The Post, “The Israeli Ministry of Health considers people born between 1957 and 1977 as not immune or ‘partially immune’ to measles and recommends those traveling abroad to receive the necessary doses to protect against the virus.”
The WHO says, “measles is almost entirely preventable with two doses of measles vaccine, a safe and highly effective vaccine.”