3 More Israelis Suspected of Contracting Swine Flu

Health officials on Saturday confirmed that a third Israeli has been infected with the virus.

Ran Reznick
Jonathan Lis
Ronny Linder
Barak Ravid
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Ran Reznick
Jonathan Lis
Ronny Linder
Barak Ravid

The Health Ministry announced Saturday evening that three more Israelis are suspected of contracting the H1NI virus, otherwise known as "swine flu."

Three Israelis have tested positive for the virus thus far, and 29 others are suspected of being infected.

A 33-year-old woman and her eight-month-old son were admitted to Jerusalem's Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital after arriving in Israel on a flight from New York, while a 20-year-old-woman was taken to Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv.

Earlier Saturday, health officials confirmed that a third Israeli has been infected with the virus.

The patient is a 34-year-old man who recently returned from a trip to Mexico. He was admitted to Icihilov on Friday along with this wife, 34, following a suspicion that the two had contracted swine flu.

The couple was placed in isolation shortly after their return. On Friday, the hospital stated that both man and woman were in good condition.

Ealier Friday Health Ministry announced that two Israelis suspected of contracting swine flu tested negative for the disease.

Both a woman, 75, and a nine-year-old girl were quarantined in hospital until their conditions could be verified. Two other Israelis have tested positive for swine flu since the global outbreak emerged, and were released from hospital upon treatment.

View Swine Flu Worldwide in a larger map

Meanwhile, a 26-year-old Haifa woman who recently came into contact with someone who had visited Mexico is undergoing tests to see if she has contracted the disease.

Medical personnel at the clinic which was set up at Ben-Gurion Airport examined 26 returning passengers for swine flu before dawn on Saturday. All tested negative for the illness, Israel Radio reported.

The returnees, who entered the country following a stay in Mexico, flew into Israel on jets chartered by Iberia and El-Al airlines.

According to Israel Radio, the 26 individuals have agreed to enter "voluntary seclusion" for a period of one week as a precautionary measure. The returnees have been granted permission by their employers to remain home during this time.

Israel will also tighten its border examinations of nationals and tourists entering from Mexico or who have recently visited the country, senior health officials decided on Thursday following another set of emergency consultations in the prime minister's bureau.

Anyone landing in the country from Mexico will be required to undergo tests at a clinic that has been set up at Ben Gurion Airport.

The police also said they would be responsible for providing medical treatment, in coordination with the Health Ministry, for any detainees who might be diagnosed with swine flu.

In addition, police cars are expected to escort trucks carrying anti-flu drugs from ministry warehouses to medication distribution areas.

Police districts were ordered to prepare plans to split the areas under their jurisdiction into smaller regions that could be isolated during an outbreak and to map out ways for medical personnel to reach those areas.

Police are also preparing for the possibility of riots at potential drug-distribution areas. The police also decided that any police officers who get swine flu should be taken off duty until they recover so they don't infect colleagues.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu summoned senior officials on Thursday for discussions on the possibility of a swine flu outbreak in Israel. The officials also resolved to maintain responsibility for flu prevention efforts in the hands of the Health Ministry.

Earlier, senior officials had mulled assigning the Defense Ministry's national emergency authority with the task rather than the Health Ministry.

Dr. Yehuda Carmeli, head of epidemiology and preventive medicine at Tel Aviv's Ichilov Medical Center, told Haaretz that the risk of swine flu is significantly lower in Israel than in Mexico. Due to the preventive steps that have been taken here, he said, a massive outbreak is unlikely in Israel unless there is a worldwide pandemic.

"We still cannot say with certainty whether we have overcome the disease," said Dr. Itamar Grotto, the Health Ministry's head of Public Health Services. "But fortunately, the threat of local transmission has been negated."

The ministry will begin disseminating information about the disease on Thursday. It is advising Israelis to take precautions to avoid contracting the virus and has urged the public to be vigilant and maintain personal hygiene. The ministry has also asked anyone who has been in contact with infected individuals to avoid crowds.

The ministry has published a list of symptoms that could indicate swine flu, including fever, cold, sore throat, muscle soreness and shortness of breath. Anyone arriving from Mexico in the past seven days who has one of these symptoms should be examined.

More than 1,000 callers contact Health Ministry hotline

Meanwhile, some 1,000 callers contacted the Health Ministry's swine flu hotline on Thursday, which was staffed by ministry officials responding to questions on how to treat the disease, what to do if someone is suspected of having been infected and whether to travel abroad.

Some of the calls were from other ministry officials and doctors, for whom a separate information center has since been set up.

A woman who returned from Mexico on April 17 was one of the callers. She asked about flu-like symptoms she said she had developed, but added that she had already recovered and wanted to know if there was anything she should do.

The incident is being studied and added to a registry of people who have been in Mexico in recent weeks and have recovered from any symptoms.

U.S. authorities also contacted the Health Ministry to learn more details about the Israelis confirmed to have been infected with swine flu after visits to Mexico.

They wanted to know where in Mexico the two had been staying, in an effort to map the spread of the disease.

The hotline will also be operating today, between 7 A.M. and 2 P.M., and Sunday between 7 A.M. and 7 P.M. The hotline number is 03-695-1541 or *3090 from a Bezeq phone line.