Family of Swine Flu Victim Says Her Death Could Have Been Prevented

Ilana Ksaoker, a 39-year-old woman from the village of Bnei Aish, died of complications stemming from the H1N1 virus (commonly known as swine flu) on Saturday night at Beilinson Hospital, Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva. The woman, who had been hospitalized since mid-August, did not previously suffer from any chronic conditions or other diseases. She is the fourth Israeli not included in the known risk groups to die from the virus.

On Friday, a 60-year-old woman with preexisting health conditions died at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv after contracting the swine flu.

Ksaoker was first admitted to Kaplan Hospital in Rehovot on August 10, with severe pneumonia. Several days later she was diagnosed as carrying the swine flu and began treatment with Tamiflu. Her condition deteriorated, however, and she was soon transferred to Beilinson. She was hospitalized there with lung dysfunction and placed on artificial ventilation, eventually passing away Saturday night.

Ksaoker's family said yesterday that the treatment she received at Kaplan was severely lacking. The woman's husband, Soli, said that the blood tests were conducted late into her hospitalization and were further delayed on the way to the lab. He also claimed that the hospital staff did not diagnose his late wife properly.

"I expected them to treat her seriously and give her the appropriate care, but the physician only came to look at her once, and said she would get intravenous infusion and antibiotics and then be released," he said yesterday. "When things got worse, they finally decided to hospitalize her in the internal medicine ward, but it was staffed only by nurses - no one checked her properly and no one told us what she was sick with."

"Even after they took blood for tests, no one thought about sending it to Tel Hashomer to check if it was swine flu," he continued. "She was healthy. If she had been given proper treatment early enough, none of this would have happened."

Kaplan Hospital released a statement, denying that Ksaoker was not properly treated. "The hospital sends its condolences to the family," the statement read. "We should note that during the few days the patient was hospitalized in our facility, she was diagnosed with swine flu and was treated in accordance with health ministry instructions."

The Health Ministry said they believed the death resulted from complications caused "by a weakening of the immune system."

Professor Dan Engelhard, head of the Ministry's epidemic response team and director of the pediatric department at Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem in Jerusalem, said that American and Canadian data indicates that 15 percent of all swine flu fatalities have been among young people with no known additional risk factors. "The latest fatality is regrettable, but it does not change our preparations for the disease," Engelhard said.

The healthcare system is awaiting the first 350,000 vaccinations, which are expected to arrive this month. Next Monday, the epidemic response team will meet to determine which groups will be given priority in receiving the vaccines. As of today, the Health Ministry is not inclined to call on all pregnant women to be vaccinated, but a decision to give the vaccines to medical personnel and patients with chronic illnesses has already been made.

Local clinics in Israel have reported a slump in the rate of those diagnosed with H1N1 over the last weeks, especially among patients under the age of 18. Although infections did rise, as predicted, with the beginning of the school year in September, within two weeks infection rates began declining again, alongside a noticeable rise in patients with pneumonia. By comparison, more pneumonia patients were admitted into hospitals than during the same weeks last year.