Israel warns of mass flu outbreak among children in winter

Health Ministry says it is yet to detect a significant increase in influenza, but advises to get vaccinated before flu season begins; 'After two years of everything being mostly closed, flu is back earlier and in a more amplified manner,' says official

Adir Yanko|
The Health Ministry appears to be worried about a mass flu outbreak among children in Israel this winter following a similar warning issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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  • According to a CDC report published this weekend, the recent hospitalization rate of children with influenza is the highest it has been in the past decade.
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    A child receives a flu vaccine
    A child receives a flu vaccine
    A child receives a flu vaccine
    (Photo: Amir Alon)
    In total, 1.6 million children in the United States are estimated to have influenza this winter, of whom 13,000 will be hospitalized. Similar data was also recently published in the UK about the unusual increase in flu among children, where it also said the flu season arrived earlier this year.
    In preparation for the virus' onset, the Health Ministry has already purchased thousands of vaccines for children, which can be admitted via nose spray and designed for toddlers aged two and older. In addition, Israeli healthcare funds have urged their customers to get vaccinated as early as possible.
    Furthermore, children in second to fourth grades will be vaccinated at schools with one dose of nasal spray, and other students will be called to get vaccinated at the healthcare funds with a nasal spray or a shot, depending on the availability of the vaccine.
    "In mild autumn and winter seasons, we begin to see an increase in influenza morbidity around the end of November," said Prof. Eyal Leshem, director of the Center for Travel Medicine and Tropical Diseases at Sheba Medical Center.
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    Nasal spray flu vaccine
    Nasal spray flu vaccine
    Nasal spray flu vaccine
    (Photo: Public relations)
    "This year we saw multiple cases of influenza and cases of respiratory viruses as early as the middle of October. There has been a significant increase in morbidity, with most of the identified cases being among children.
    "There are several reasons for that. After two years of kindergartens and schools being mostly closed due to the COVID pandemic, everything went back to normal, and therefore the flu is back earlier and in a more amplified manner."
    Regarding the situation of the flu in Israel, Prof. Leshem said: "The Health Ministry has yet to detect a significant increase in influenza. We see positive samples of flu, but not in a manner that characterizes a significant rise.
    "The important thing to note is that the CDC reports that the flu virus that was identified matches the variant contained in the vaccine. That's why people who get vaccinated will be protected from severe diseases. The vaccine is recommended for anyone over six months, and certainly for the elderly, due to the fear of a strong flu season. It's best to get vaccinated now, before the outset."
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