Mexico City commuters cautious
Photo: Reuters

Hospitals briefed on swine flu

Health Ministry takes precautions after 81 people die in Mexico; official says virus not as fatal as avian flu

The Health Ministry prepared Saturday for the possibility of a swine flu outbreak in Israel, after it began to run rampant through parts of Mexico over the weekend. No Israeli has been diagnosed with the illness as of yet.


Hospital directors and doctors held conference calls with officials from the Health Ministry briefing them on courses of action in case of an outbreak. The ministry also called on tourists returning from Mexico to report any flu symptoms.

Security officials hand out masks in Mexico (Photo: Reuters)


At least 81 people have died from severe pneumonia caused by the flu-like illness in Mexico, according to the World Health Organization, which declared a "public health emergency of international concern" Saturday evening after eight nonfatal cases were reported in New York. Eleven cases have been confirmed in California, Kansas and Texas. The decision means countries around the world will be asked to step up reporting and surveillance of the disease. 


Some of those who died are confirmed to have a unique version of the A/H1N1 flu virus that is a combination of bird, pig and human viruses. Mexico has closed schools, museums, libraries and theaters in a bid to contain the outbreak, which may have sickened about 1,000 people there.


Israel has formed updated directions on how to identify and treat cases of swine flu, and on Sunday all doctors will receive these orders.


Dr. Ran Blitzer, editor of the Health Ministry's Plan of Preparedness of the Health System for the Case of an Influenza Pandemic, told Ynet that "the disease is contagious among people, apparently in a significant way".


He added that epidemiological data was still being gathered, but in the US only eight cases have been documented so far, none of which have led to death and only one of which required hospitalization.


"The good news is that this is not the violent and fatal virus we know as avian influenza and it doesn't cause high death tolls," he said, adding that the WHO had not described it as a pandemic as of yet.


In Israel swine are raised in three areas: The Arab communities of Psuta and Ibillin in the Galilee, and Kibbutz Lahav in the south. Around 150,000 pigs are currently being raised in Israel.


The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report


פרסום ראשון: 04.25.09, 21:42
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