Swine Flu Spreading in Israel at Alarming Rate


swine-flu9Swine flu is spreading in Israel. According to a Health Ministry report released yesterday, the number of people who have caught the disease rose 3.6 percent in the past two weeks. The ministry has recorded 2,148 cases of verified swine flu in Israel, half of them patients under the age of 30. The disease is spreading fastest in Haifa, the north and Yerushalayim, though the largest number of people suffering from the flu has been recorded in the central region.

A study conducted by the Health Ministry’s department of epidemiology, based on 1,503 swine flu patients, showed that only 5 percent of those diagnosed were over the age of 50. This figure bucks the trend of normal seasonal flus, in which the disease is more widespread among older citizens.

The study also showed that swine flu is slightly more widespread among men than women, like most infectious diseases.

In the first three weeks of July, patients whose symptoms could indicate swine flu were tested for the disease only if they were considered high-risk, including those suffering from chronic diseases, pregnant women and hospitalized patients, while for the last two weeks, only people admitted with acute respiratory conditions or people living near a known outbreak have been tested. Therefore, the ministry’s figures for the rise in the number of swine flu patients are estimates, based on the number of people whose symptoms seem likely to be caused by the disease.

By the end of last week, these estimates found, the number of people contracting swine flu each week had risen to 1,346 – a fourfold increase compared to two weeks earlier. In the Tel Aviv region, 696 people a week now catch swine flu, or 2.2 times more than two weeks ago, while in the Yerushalayim region, the number rose to 355 people a week, or 4.4 times more than two weeks earlier. In Haifa, it rose to 348 people – a whopping 7.9 times more than two weeks earlier. In the south, the number rose to 332 people, or 3.5 times more than two weeks earlier, while in the north, it rose to 244 people, or fully five times more than two weeks ago.

Senior health and finance ministry officials met in the Prime Minister’s Office last night to discuss the Health Ministry’s request for NIS 400 million to prepare for the winter, including by ordering additional vaccines against both swine flu and regular flu strains.

The first case of swine flu in Israel – contracted abroad – was diagnosed on April 26. The first locally contracted case was confirmed on May 10.

By the end of June, 64 percent of those diagnosed with the disease had been infected inside Israel, and the rate has continued to climb, to 84 percent during the first three weeks of July and 91.5 percent during July’s final week.

Most swine flu patients share symptoms such as runny noses, headaches, coughing, muscle pain and shortness of breath. Other symptoms include sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Five patients diagnosed as having the disease have so far succumbed to it, of the 29 hospitalized in intensive care. There are currently 13 patients hospitalized with the disease.

The Health Ministry soon plans to expand testing for the disease to another five laboratories across Israel.

{Haaretz/Yair Alpert-Matzav.com Israel}