Twenty-six Israelis have contracted the measles virus over the past four months, with nine soldiers diagnosed just last week, raising concerns of an outbreak.
For the sake of comparison, only eight cases of measles were recorded in 2016, according to the Health Ministry.
One of the soldiers is believed to have contracted the virus while visiting relatives in Ukraine. Upon his return to Israel, he went to a civilian clinic, where he exposed eight other soldiers who were waiting for the doctor to the virus.
The soldiers don't know each other and do not serve in the same unit. All of them are currently only displaying minor symptoms.
The IDF said the soldiers are under medical supervision, while those who came in contact with them received preventative treatment.
"The IDF, together with the Health Ministry, investigated the cases and identified the source of the infection. It is important to emphasize the source of the infection is not in the clinic itself, but rather proximity to the patient," the IDF said in a statement.
While officials in the Health Ministry said Saturday it was too early to declare this as an outbreak, epidemiologists from different hospitals across Israel believe this to nevertheless be a significant number of cases.
Last June, the Health and Foreign ministries recommended that those traveling to Europe get vaccinated against the measles virus in light of an increase in reported cases on the continent. According to recent reports, some 6,000 cases of the measles were reported in the last year, mostly in Romania, Italy, France, Germany, Poland, Belgium and Ukraine.
The Health Ministry said the vaccination coverage in Israel is among the highest in Western states, with 97 percent coverage for the first and second doses for measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox. Ministry officials also stated there were enough measles vaccines in stock to stop any likely outbreak.
The measles is caused by the measles virus. It is transmitted directly from one person to another in close proximity. Measles is highly contagious—a person who hasn't been vaccinated and is exposed to a patient has a 90 percent chance of becoming infected.
Measles can cause serious respiratory and nervous system complications. About a third of patients develop complications such as ear infections, diarrhea and corneal inflammation. Rare complications include pneumonia and encephalitis. The risk of complications is higher in children under five years of age and adults over 20, as well as patients suffering from suppressed immune systems.
In response to the cases, the Health Ministry said, "Due to the long-standing activity by the Health Ministry, Israel is one of the countries in Europe that is on track to eradicate measles. Despite this, even a country in the process of eradicating the measles could have cases imported from abroad, which infect a small circle of people around the patient."