Hospitals throughout Israel have reported overcrowding as a result of a widespread outbreak of flu in the country. While the Health Ministry says there has been a light decline over the past few days, it added that "the numbers are still expected to rise."
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The flu outbreak has particularly affected children's wards at the country's hospitals, where the occupancy rate stands at 98 percent. In some cities - including Netanya, Tel Aviv, Hadera and Petah Tikva - occupancy rates hover around 150%.
Numerous cases of severe flu-like illnesses have also been reported by doctors in Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan, Netanya, Hod Hasharon and Rehovot in recent days.
Internal medicine wards have also been experiencing overcrowding, with occupancy rates in hospitals in Netanya, Jerusalem, Hadera, Afula and Ashkelon at around 150%.
A report by the Health Ministry's National Disease Control Center, which estimates the rate of incidence of flu in Israel based on data from dozens of clinics, predicted that the number of people getting the flu is expected to rise this season, especially among adults.
The rate of visits by children to emergency rooms is at a multi-year average, while the rate of visits to internal medicine wards last week was above the multi-year average.
Based on the samples transferred to the Health Ministry's national virus laboratory, some 48% of the flu viruses active this winter are isolated strains of swine flu (H1N1), which caused a global epidemic in 2009. While that rate indicates a rise in the incidence of swine flu in Israel, the Health Ministry has made clear that "at the moment there is no swine flu epidemic."
So far this year there have been three deaths related to swine flu.
Earlier this month, a three-year-old from Petah Tikva, who had a pre-existing condition, died at Schneider Children's Medical Center. Approximately ten days ago a 60-year-old Hod Hasharon resident with a preexisting condition died in Meir Hospital after contracting swine flu. On Sunday, a 28 year-old woman from the Negev who arrived at Soroka Hospital in Be'er Sheva with pneumonia died in the emergency room of a complication related to swine flu.
The Health Ministry stressed that "the swine flu virus is included in the list of seasonal flu strains. Every year 700 people die in Israel from complications related to contraction of swine flu, and the mortality rate this year does not exceed the yearly average."