Caesarea Boy, 15, Dies From Seasonal Flu

Rate of flu-like illnesses among all children up to age 18, and the rate of pneumonia among children between 2 and 18 years old, higher than expected for the winter season.

A 15-year-old boy died yesterday of complications from the seasonal flu, making him the third person known to have died of the flu in Israel this winter. The boy, who did not have any known underlying medical conditions, was from Caesarea.

The other two victims - a 33-year-old East Jerusalem man who died a month ago and a 55-year-old woman from Kiryat Ata who died last week - both had swine flu.

Another individual with swine flu, a 34-year-old from Upper Nazareth, is currently being treated at Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva, where she is in serious condition. She is reportedly in an induced coma and on a ventilator.

Last week the rate of flu-like illnesses among all children up to age 18, and the rate of pneumonia among children between 2 and 18 years old, were both higher than expected for the winter season, according to the Israel Center for Disease Control.

Hospitals were reported to be overcrowded yesterday, though the number of hospitalized patients was normal for the season, the Health Ministry said. Non-specialized hospitals were filled to 107 percent capacity, children's wards to 111 percent and internal medicine wards to 114 percent, according to the ministry.

According to the Health Ministry, it is not too late for Israelis to get flu shots - which this year combine the vaccine against the seasonal flu with the vaccine against swine flu.

Children between 6 months and 5 years old are considered at high risk for the flu and complications, but only 13 percent of that group has been immunized this year. Among adults aged 65 and older, another high-risk group, 54 percent have received a flu shot.

On Sunday, the 15-year-old boy from Caesarea was admitted to Hillel Yaffeh Medical Center in Hadera with respiratory difficulties and chest pain, accompanied by a high fever. After an X-ray indicated that his lungs were clear, he was administered antibiotics and extra oxygen.

The next day he suffered a respiratory attack, and another X-ray showed that he had developed pneumonia. He was put in an induced coma and on a ventilator at 1 A.M. and died later that morning, after his body's systems ceased to function, said Dr. Moni Litmanovich, who heads the intensive care unit at Hillel Yaffeh.

"In most people, when an infection develops, the body fights the virus," he said. "There are some people where, for some reason, this activity gets out of control and begins to fight the body itself, and that's what happened in this case."