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Two newborns died in late March at Meir Hospital in Kfar Sava and Schneider Children's Medical Center in Petah Tikva as a result of infection caused by a Coxsackie B2 virus, which is transmitted by contact.

Experts at the Health Minister believe it the enterovirus was passed on to the children by their mothers.

According to the national laboratory for viruses of the Health Ministry since January there have been 13 cases involving viral infections attributed to his family of viruses, in seven hospitals. Six cases involved the Coxsackie B2 virus. Four severe cases involved newborns hospitalized in the past month at Schneider, Sheba and Meir hospitals.

Aside from the two fatalities, all other newborns recovered. There are currently no known cases of newborns suffering from infections due to the virus.

Prof. Itamar Grotto, head of Public Health Services at the Health Ministry, said there are cases of the virus every year, usually in the summer and fall.

"However this year the number of cases is higher," he said. "We estimated that the infection occurred during the final stages of pregnancy and that it was passed on either before the pregnancy or while the child was being born. Newborns have no antibodies against enteroviruses so if they are infected the risk is high."

"It is very important to ensure high levels of personal hygiene in order to prevent infections to newborns," Grotto said.

The Health Ministry said that "the ministry is carrying out an epidemiological investigation of the cases and the medical teams have been instructed to step up their vigilance and ensure that the standard prevention measures for transmitted diseases are maintained."