Swine Flu Kills Woman in Central Israel, 11 More People Hospitalized

Health officials call on the public to get flu shots due to highly irregular concentration of cases.

An archive photo from 2009 of an isolation room for patients with swine flu, in Rambam Medical Center, Haifa.
Moran Maayan / Jini

A woman in her 50s had swine flu died in Petah Tikva’s Beilinson Hospital on Wednesday. Another 11 cases of the virus have been diagnosed in Israel in recent days, an extremely rare occurrence. Fearing an outbreak of the virus, Health Ministry officials have called on the public to get flu shots.

The deceased woman, who also suffered from other illnesses, was transferred to hospital in serious condition a month ago and connected to a machine that artificially oxygenated her blood, but her condition later deteriorated.

Eleven other people are being treated for swine flu in different hospitals across the country, with some of the patients receiving artificial respiration. Seven of them are in serious condition.

On Thursday, swine flu was discovered in a four-year-old girl who suffers from other illnesses. The girl was hospitalized at Assaf Harofeh Hospital with flu symptoms and a high temperature. Her condition is moderate and stable. 

Three pregnant women arrived at the Soroka Medical Center, Be’er Sheva, this week exhibiting flu symptoms. They were diagnosed with swine flu and were found to be carrying the H1N1 virus – a subtype of type A influenza.

The hospital says the condition of two women has improved and they are now in isolation wards. The other woman, 25, required artificial respiration and is currently in the intensive care unit. Due to her serious condition, she underwent a Cesarean Section on Wednesday. Her baby is in a stable condition and was transferred to the preemie ICU.

The hospital is also treating a fourth person for swine flu. The woman, 57, is in serious condition and in an intensive care unit, where she is receiving artificial respiration. The hospital reported that none of the women had received a flu vaccine, and that all the cases had been reported to the Health Ministry.

A 55-year-old man and a 64-year-old woman have been treated over the past few days at the Western Galilee Hospital, Nahariya. The patients, local residents, may have contracted the disease after they were diagnosed as suffering from type A influenza, and are receiving artificial respiration. Neither had received a flu vaccine this year. The two patients suffer from other diseases that increase the chance to contract the illness, but it isn’t known yet if they have caught swine flu.

Dr. Masad Barhoum, the hospital's director, called on the public to get flu shots. "The populations that are most susceptible to the disease are naturally elderly people, babies, children and those suffering from various chronic diseases."

The Health Ministry is following the swine flu cases, but no guidelines were distributed to hospitals or community clinics at this stage, according to Prof. Itamar Grotto, the head of the ministry's Public Health Services.

"H1N1 flu has appeared every year since 2009, but in varying scope. Each year there are a few critical condition hospitalization cases, especially of people with chronic diseases or pregnant women," he said. "Last year there were hardly any such cases, and this year we see more. We're following since we're still in the first quarter of the flu season and the peak is still ahead of us. That's why we're also calling on the public and explaining that there's still a reason to get vaccinated."

Swine flu was first detected in 2009 and may appear during the winter months. People occasionally transmit the virus, although current flu vaccinations also include protection against swine flu. The symptoms are similar to regular flu symptoms and include fever, fatigue, headaches, sore throat and muscles, and coughing.

Pregnant women are at higher risk of contracting the disease because their immune system is normally suppressed during pregnancy, making them more vulnerable.